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January 02
2020

ISSUE

Winter 2020

Final Frame: Peering into the Future – in 1927

People in every era are curious about the future. Legendary director Fritz Lang was certainly curious back in the original “Roaring Twenties” with his landmark sci-fi film Metropolis.

Created in Germany, this black-and-white masterpiece centers around a future Utopian city called Metropolis, where wealthy residents enjoy the good life above the surface and downtrodden workers underground toil ceaselessly for the benefit of these elites.

Not only is the film notable for its subject matter, but for its pioneering visual and special effects as well. Eugen Shüfftan was credited for much of the special effects wizardry. He fabricated a miniature of the city, a camera on a swing, and came up with the “Schüfftan Process” whereby mirrors were used to create the illusion that actors were occupying miniature sets.

This image above depicts the city. The shots that establish the city with cars, planes and moving elevated trains were filmed using stop-motion photography. The autos were modeled after a new generation of taxi cabs found in Berlin. It took several months to build this city, which was inspired by Lang’s visit to New York in 1924 where he was dazzled by the skyline, tall buildings and lighting.

In addition to Shüfftan, Ernst Kuntsmann was credited with special effects. The other technicians included Erich Kettelhut for trick photography and painting effects, model makers Willy Muller and Edmund Zeihfuss, trick photography assistant Hugo O. Schulze, and Konstantin Irmen-Tschet for special photographic effects sequences.


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