The Giant of Metropolis (1961)

Giant of Metropolis Title

Directed by Umberto Scarpelli

Written by Gino Stafford, Sabatino Cuiffini, Oreste Palella, Amabrogio Moltaeni, Umberto Scarpelli, and Emimmo Salvi (whew!)

Run Time: 92 minutes

Tagline: See! The Dwarfs of Death! See! The City Destroyed by Cataclysm! See! Women Who Live Forever! [NOTE: There are no women who live forever in this movie.]

Memorable Quote: “Only the force of inscrutable fate is powerful enough to overthrow the inflexible laws of science!”

Guest review by Sean Ledden

PROLOGUE

Perhaps it was just the workings of inscrutable fate, but shortly after Dennis posted his dizzying, delightful, and demented review of “War of the Planets,” the DVD for “Giant of Metropolis” arrived in the mail courtesy of Netflix. It had been in my queue for quite some time, and I’d forgotten why I put it there. But whatever the reason, it at last arrived. And right when I was thinking it would be fun to write another review, too. Why not something from Italy? And so I light-heartedly put the DVD into my computer and poised my fingers above the key board. But oh, dear reader, I knew not what I was doing!

For this movie is not just another “peplum” muscle-fest. On no. It’s a lethargic fever-dream of endless predictions of disaster. A swirling maelstrom of ham-fisted moralizing poorly disguised as exposition and interspersed with endless shots of people walking into, out of, and in-between rooms. It’s a faith-based screed against science, and tyranny, and the tyranny of scientific kings who use hypnotism! It’s an ardent supporter of biological reproduction (in humans!), and a stern critic of “artificial” living. It’s 80 minutes of constantly repeating preamble leading to a cardboard climax that, once it finally arrives, constantly repeats itself. Nothing happens, and yet it’s STILL confusing!

It is, in short, “Giant of Metropolis,” an awe inspiring and mind-numbing icon of low-brow Italian movie fantasy.

(THE FIRST) PREAMBLE

No sooner have the credits disappeared from the screen, when a majestic chunk of heroic exposition raises into view. It sets the stage for the epic conflict to come, so here it is, in all it’s confounding glory:

In 20,000 B.C., on the continente [sic] of Atlantis, now lost beneath the waters of the ocean, there lived a people who had developed an amazingly advanced civilization and who ruled all other people on earth…Obro, a man born in the east dared to probe the mystery of the city of death.

His gigantie [sic!] strength and courage were pitted against Yotar, the evil King, in a struggle to the finish….

…When the scientists of Metropolis attempted to penetrate the secret of death, nature rebelled, causing universal destruction…

…love alone triumphed…

…and remained the sole source of life…

Ooh, that’s quite a mouthful, but no need to panic because I’m going to walk you through it step by mystifying step. OK, at the beginning of the scroll it all seems pretty clear. We know the time is 20,000 B.C. (20,000 B.C.!!!) and the location is the “continente” of Atlantis. (I think that “continente” is a classy, European version of a continent.) Which is now “lost beneath the waters of the ocean.” Bummer. But I have to ask that you don’t try and go look for it – you’ll only be disappointed. As so many dreamers, treasure hunters, and TV documentary producers have been before. – But I digress, and I shouldn’t, for we are now told that it had developed “an amazingly advanced civilization.” Presumably this was before, and not after, it was “lost below the waters of the ocean,” even though the word order suggests otherwise. To those who wish to disagree with my evaluation, using Aquaman as proof that Atlantis did indeed develop an “amazingly advanced civilization” even after it was “lost beneath the waters of the ocean,” I wish to point out that the backdrop to the text scroll is a pretty, if clearly fake, painting of some mountains. These mountains are plainly up on dry land. Thus I feel that I am justified, through my close study of “non-textual” elements in the movie opening, in my assumption that the “continente” of Atlantis did indeed develop it’s “amazingly advanced civilization” BEFORE it was “lost beneath the waters of the ocean.” OK, are we all on the same page? Good, let’s move on.

And now, I think, our hero enters the stage! Which is good news, on the whole, yet it also means that some complications enter the scenario. We are told of Obro, a “man born in the east.” Now you, like I, might ask “Why is it important that Obro was born in the east? Why not from the west, south, or even north? And if he was born in the east, why didn’t he stay there?” And perhaps more importantly, is Obro the “giant” referred to in the title? But like the sphinx of ancient Egypt, the “Giant of Metropolis” (the movie, not the character, if there is one) remains silent and aloof, and no answer is forthcoming.

But if we don’t know why Obro was born in the east, why he left it, or even if he is the long anticipated “giant,” we at least know what he does next. He “probes” the “mystery of the city of death.” What motivation could he possibly have for such an unappealing sounding task? And what did he accomplish? These answers too are not to be found in the text scroll, but we do learn that his “gigantie strength and courage” allowed him to be “pitted” against an evil king named “Yotar,” (NOT the Thing from Venus mind you! That was Zontar.) – in a “struggle to the finish.” Why did they struggle, what was at stake, and who won? Scarpelli his co-writers ignore our pleas for information and we are whip-lashed on to the next event, which is that “the scientists of Metropolis attempted to penetrate the secret of death.”

Metropolis! At last. Could this be the “city of death” that Obro “probes?” Again, the scroll does not confirm this, but it is a reasonable deduction given what (little) we know. After all, a city whose scientists attempt to “penetrate the secret of death” could very well develop a bad reputation, thus receiving the moniker, “city of death.” Either that or it would become a popular spa town which attracted a great deal of research money from the old and the rich. Each option is a possibility, but before we have a chance to make an informed decision we are told that “nature rebelled,” (just as the harried reader is tempted to do) and “universal destruction” ensued. Which seems to imply that everybody died -which would end the movie even before it began – at least to my unimaginative mind.

On a more positive note, even though the world suffered “universal destruction” love “triumphed.” As it does in times of catastrophe, I guess. And, thank God, it “remained the sole source of life.” Which made up for the massive loss of life from the “universal destruction.” Which happened because Nature rebelled because evil King Yotar and his scientists “penetrated the secret of death,” (or “attempted” to penetrate – which implies that they failed. Which begs the question, would a failed attempt to “penetrate the secret of death” cause Nature to rebel? Quite possibly. But it seems unlikely.) This even as Obro “probed” the “mystery of the city of death.”….The result of which was that Obro and Yotar were “pitted” against each other – did anything ever become of that? Seemingly no. Which begs the question, why bring it up? Who wrote this stuff anyway? Let’s have another look at the credits, shall we:

Written by (I kid you not): Gino Stafford

Sabatino Cuiffini

Oreste Palella

Amabrogio Moltaeni

Umberto Scarpelli

And

Emimmo Salvi

Oh, OK. That didn’t help much, but maybe a short review of what we know will. Cutting out the inessentials, this is what we have:

1. A man named Obro, for unexplained reasons, left his home in the east.

2. He then “probed” the “city of death,” to no great effect.

3. Next, he “pitted” his great strength against an evil king named Yotar – neither man apparently gaining a victory.

4. The scientists of Metropolis tried, and probably failed, to “penetrate the secret of death.”

5. Almost everyone died in a natural disaster.

Not a very inspiring backstory. One wonders why they went to the trouble of recounting it…..unless, and here the mad genius of “Giant of Metropolis” first shows itself, this is no backstory, BUT THE STORY WE ARE ABOUT TO SEE. A story written by:

Written by (I kid you not): Gino Stafford

Sabatino Cuiffini

Oreste Palella

Amabrogio Moltaeni

Umberto Scarpelli

And

Emimmo Salvi

Bravo! (What must the writing “conferences” have been like? The mind boggles.)

THE STORY

So there you have it. The opening scroll, while not explaining motivations or outcomes, has just spelled out the entire plot of the movie! You might think that we can therefore stop right here. But that would be based on two assumptions:

1) I’m not masochistic enough to watch the movie.

2) I’m not sadistic enough to describe every single damn scene.

Both assumptions are wrong – so let’s get cracking!

We begin, as we often do in muscleman “peplum” fantasies, in the midst of a blasted and barren wilderness. Then we see a long line of men in period dress marching through said blasted wilderness. As a kettle drum pounds ominously in the background the old man at the head of the line collapses for no apparent reason. This causes the younger men, including one with big chest muscles, to crowd around as the old guy lets forth with lots and lots of……drum-roll…..exposition! Maybe this time the exposition will actually explain something. Here it is in its glorious entirety – because you deserve it! (Ha ha!)

Hear me my sons… My strength is waning now… My journey has ended, here… Listen carefully.

Oh for heaven’s sake, I want to scream, get to the point! We’ve already sat through the world’s longest, and most confusing non-backstory scroll, so get on with it!

I leave to you all, but to you especially Obro the duty of carrying out that mission that our people entrusted to me.

Why would anyone entrust anything to you? And who are you anyways?

On the other side of that mountain lies Metropolis. A city which has attained a terrifying civilization. You are to go and say to it’s ruler, and to it’s people, that they are wrong.

Whoever this guy is, he certainly has a lot of nerve. Has he ever even been to Metropolis?

They should never use their knowledge of science to defeat the ends of Nature. To sow destruction and death. They shouldn’t try to change the natural order.

It’s unclear if he’s talking about genetically modified food, runaway military spending, or cross-dressing. Maybe all three? (Academic Note: Did cross dressing have any meaning before the invention of pants?)

Otherwise Nature will have her revenge. They are challenging forces they cannot control. If they continue we will have a tremendous disaster….. ugh, ugh ……(and he dies.)

Giant of Metropolis

Would you follow this man to tell a terrifying civilization that it is wrong?

Alrighty then. We’re 5 minutes into the movie and the first character we’ve actually met has just died. Did we learn anything new? Not really, although note how Scarpelli & Co. cleverly remind us of the upcoming disaster, in case we forgot we read all about it 90 seconds ago. Note too how the “good guys” seem to have traveled a long way from an unthreatened home to lecture, and possibly attack, a city because it is “wrong.” Their actions are justified because some crazy old guy knows, just knows , that by challenging the “natural order” Metropolis will bring down a tremendous disaster. No one, including his hunky son Obro thinks to ask how he knows this.

Speaking of Obro, I think this is a good place to say he is played by an appealing chunk of B-Movie Beefcake named Gordon Mitchell. He is not the handsomest of men. Nor is he the finest actor. But Gordon does have something more than muscles to recommend him. It’s a complete lack of that “I’m the handsomest guy in the senior class” smarminess that makes me want to punch so many B-Movie heroes right in their gorgeous kissers. I’ll take Gordon’s wooden earnestness any day.

Back to the movie and the “electrifying” Obro. (Ha ha!) After earnestly, if woodenly burying his father, Obro attempts, in his own low key way, to get the protest rally, or raiding party, or whatever the hell it is, back on the road to victory. But he is thwarted by a surprising revolt from his swinish second in command. He tells Obro that everyone else is turning back. His “reasons” for this are that his men are exhausted and depressed. And he has no wish to challenge the power of Metropolis, which was just described as “terrifying.” Well, that sounds reasonable to me, but of course they are really proof of the man’s treachery!

This would seem a good chance to prove that Obro is indeed a giant among men – one capable of inspiring others with his leadership. But that would be too conventional! Too trite! Too dramatic! Obro doesn’t even try to convince his followers that what they are doing is worthwhile. Instead he gives the traitor a look of cow-like dullness and turns away. He and his brothers then continue on their mission. Whether this is brave or stupid, I’ll leave you to judge. (SIDE NOTE: Obro has a heroic physique, while his brothers have ordinary builds. Yet they are the ones saddled with heavy backpacks full of provisions, and not he!)

Suddenly, we cut to Metropolis – finally! – and to evil king Yotar himself. (Yotar is played with cool impassivity by Roldano Lupi. According to his IMDB record, playing foreign tyrants was something of a specialty for him. He twice played Genghis Khan himself!) But do we get any action now that we are in the big city? No. What we get is a research committee’s progress report. Which means, you guessed it, more exposition! But alas, the report isn’t so good. “Important astral movements” are creating “physiological conditions” which demand the postponement of a brain transplant into the head of Yotar’s son Elmos, “for a while.” ( Brain transplant?) That’s good news for poor Elmos, whoever he is, but this reprieve only adds to the sense of futility that is pervading the movie so far. Let’s review:

1. Some crazy old guy dies in the desert before he can cuss out the big city.

2. His son Obro is unable to convince the major part of his party to continue.

3. Yotar will have to postpone transplanting a brain into the head of his son Elmos.

Can’t anyone in this movie get ANYTHING done? Wait, I complained too soon, there IS some good news. Another scientist pipes in that “None of the other experiments need be postponed in the meantime.” Yotar, being a cool customer, as every evil king must, doesn’t jump up and down at this news. He calmly asks “Do your expectations also extend to the case of Egan?” This is the answer he gets, “The attempt to restore the body of Egan, the chief of our people, to life could not be postponed in any case. Even if cosmological conditions should prove to be unfavorable.” ….What??? (SIDE NOTE: Given the fancy way that Yotar and his scientists speak, I think it’s safe to assume they all went to college. Booo!!!)

Giant of Metropolis

Yotar hears his research committee’s progress report in some sort of giant observatory room. This and the other striking sets were designed by Giorgio Giovannini. His work is a pleasure to behold and the best thing about “Giant of Metropolis.”

Wait a minute – Egan is the “chief?” I thought Yotar was the king! Oh, never mind, I guess the important information here is that cosmological conditions really aren’t that important when it comes to scheduling body regenerations and brain transplants. I’m relieved to hear this, but confused as to why they will none-the-less postpone Elmos’ brain transplant. Which is odd because Yotar goes on to state, “Above all I’m worried about the experiments on Elmos. He will be the first youth to have the wide experience and the accumulated wisdom that here-to-fore could be found only in the brain of an elderly man.” Oh, OK. But actually, I think I’d turn that around and say, “For the first time the brain of an elderly man will enjoy the body of a youth.” I mean, can a youth who has his brain removed really be said to have the “experience and the accumulated wisdom” of an elderly man? I invite readers to debate this issue with friends and family. Possibly at the dinner table!

Now we jump back to the barren wastes, through which Obro and his brothers continue to wordlessly trudge.

Then it’s back to the scientists of Metropolis as they track our heroes on some sort of prehistoric radar. “As soon as they are within the radius of action, maneuver them into the magnetic traps!” commands their leader. “Maneuvering” Obro and his brothers into the magnetic traps proves to be extremely easy. All the scientists do is wait until they blunder into the target area. At which point Obro seems to wake from a trance and yells “Stop!” to his brothers as some sort of white, misty super-imposed tornado- thing descends on them.

In the movie’s first “action” scene our heroes clutch their throats, gag, and fall to the ground. When Obro wakes up he makes a horrifying discovery. His brothers have been reduced to…..SKELETONS! He, of course, is completely OK. (???) And not wanting to waste any more time burying his dead brothers, he resumes trudging toward the city.

Time for another progress report back at Metropolis! We find Yotar looming over a body on an examination table while one of his lackey geniuses boasts that Egan, the man on the table, is in a state of regeneration. “And if our prognostications are scientifically correct, (!!) before long the great miracle will be performed. He will be restored to life.”

Giant of Metropolis

Evil king Yotar contemplates the regenerating body of Egan, “chief” of his people.

Giant of Metropolis

Evil king Yotar confirms that the body of Egan, “chief” of his people, is indeed regenerating.

Lest the innocent viewer think that bringing a man back to life is a good thing, another scientist jumps forward and declaims, “Like all successes of science that have been achieved before, this also is due to the pitiful sacrifice of one of the humans we have kept under observation. He was 100 years old.” (Booo!) As we ponder the horror of a man cut down in the prime of life in the name of scientific research, Yotar pipes in with, “What does the sacrifice of a man matter when it serves to further the progress of science? Nothing!” At this point he should break into a maniacal laugh, but sadly does not.

Just at this moment another scientist/priest type guy (none of these guys have names!) comes in with the news that a stranger, Obro, has mysteriously survived the “whirlwinds of death.” At which news Yotar hits us over the head with a central theme of the movie by jumping to an astonishingly paranoid conclusion, “Can there be a blood stronger then our own? Perhaps we are confronting an entirely new force in the world surrounding us.” And on his orders Obro is captured – with surprising ease. (By the way, what about the blood of Obro’s brothers?)

At which point we cut to Yotar’s palace where we finally meet Elmos. He’s an adorable little tyke of about 12 years in age, and he just tugs on your heart strings when he asks Yotar why he can never leave the palace and play outside in the sunshine. Yotar’s answer is that he plans to give his son and heir eternal youth – so that Elmos can reign over the entire world for “ever and ever.” (With someone else’s brain???) Elmos isn’t impressed by his father’s unhealthy ambitions, but his pleas for release are interrupted by news that Obro has been brought to the palace.

Giant of Metropolis

Another striking image as Obro is brought before Yotar.

Soon Obro, in chains, is dragged into Yotar’s throne room. Commanded to kneel he finally shows some fire and growls, “King of Metropolis, you use science to murder people!” He completes the mission his father gave to him by warning Yotar that he is “doomed by the terrible power which you possess.” And all revved up, he delivers a prophecy of the destruction already described by the opening scroll.

In answer Yotar haughtily boasts that he has enslaved the entire earth, (though we never see any proof of that in this movie) and that nothing can destroy him. Then he banishes Obro to the “quartz mine.” After he is dragged away a high official warns Yotar to have him killed immediately, because his mere presence might cause the scientists to doubt the virtue of their endeavors. (Huh?) Yotar will have none of that however. He wants to subject Obro to “all” of their experiments, of both a “physical and scientific nature.” (???) For if Obro can survive all that, “we can at last create the perfect being.” Again, sadly, no maniacal laughter. But we are treated to a 20 second long interlude where we watch members of the court walk away from Yotar. Thrilling!

The queen (played by the lovely Liana Orfei, who reminds me of Julie Newmar) doesn’t leave, however. Frightened by the failure of the “whirlwinds of death” to kill Obro, she now doubts the success of the operation on Elmos, and begs that he be returned to her. In response Yotar gives her the evil hypnotic eye, a la Lugosi, and basically tells her to shut up. Turning to the woman next to her, he helpfully explains to the viewer that she is Mercede (the also lovely Bella Cortez), child of his first wife, who sacrificed herself because she had faith in his scientific knowledge. (….The fact that his first wife’s faith in his scientific knowledge led to her death doesn’t seem to strike Yotar as a failure. Way to stay positive guy!) And even though Mercede hasn’t uttered a peep, he commands her to shut up too. Which leads to a 30 second interlude (30 seconds!) showing the two women slinking slowly away. – Which leads to a 15 second interlude in which Yotar himself walks away from the throne. – In…cre…da….ble.

But wait, there’s more! A 15 second interlude showing Yotar ENTERING some kind of rocky chamber! Before we have a chance to catch our breaths from this change of scene Yotar’s father, sitting in front of an artfully lit patch of fog, begs Yotar to stop his experiments. (Poor Yotar. First it’s Elmos, then it’s Obro, then it’s his queen, and now it’s dad. Nobody appreciates him.) Yotar defends himself by saying he is merely continuing the work that his father began, but dad will have none of that. While he “created” their civilization, Yotar is “destroying” it. (Thanks dad! No wonder Yotar has father issues.) And as we notice that dad has some serious and unexplained skin problems, he goes on to tell us that it is HIS brain cells that Yotar wants to inject into Elmos. “It’s monstrous….why not let me die in peace?” True to form, Yotar refuses to stop, but the movie’s pace increases, and it only takes him 10 seconds to leave his father’s cave. (Whenever anyone enters a room, leaves a room, or marches through a barren wasteland in this movie I can practically hear the ticking of an old-fashioned grandfather clock…..tick…tock….tick….tock….tick….tock….etc., etc., etc.,…..)

SIDE NOTE: I’m getting the feeling that asking this script for logic and consistency is a waste of time, but what the heck will happen with dad and Elmos? Is it a brain transplant or merely a brain cell injection? Would dad’s brain even fit into a boy’s skull? Sigh. So many questions…

Next comes a baffling scene as we cut to the city’s main square where a man, apropos nothing, turns to the camera and says “More than to the populace, who have always shown me affection, I am grateful to the king for restoring me to life.” Huh? Oh, this must be Egan, “chief” of the people. We’ll have to take their affection for him on faith though, because now they are just standing silently in the background. No cheering. No celebrations of any kind. Their blasé attitude is particularly amazing because I believe Egan is supposed to be the first man successfully brought back to life! Even Egan isn’t happy, “All my joy is overclouded with apprehension for Elmos.” I guess it’s Everyone Rag On Yotar Day.

Then it’s back to the throne room, where we spend 15 seconds watching the chained Obro approach Yotar. After some appropriate taunting, Yotar pits Obro against “a creature” whose strength is greater than his! Said creature turns out to be a fat, hairy caveman armed with the large jaw bone of some plant eating animal, and finally this heavy morality play is enlivened by some comedy as the fight to the death devolves into some sort of hugging contest.

Giant of Metropolis

Bear hug!

A fat, hairy caveman armed with a jaw bone is the best that the terrifying science of Metropolis can come up with??? Unsurprisingly, Obro wins, though he is unable to break free from the guards. Disquieted, Yotar leaves the throne room and spends 25 seconds walking down a stairway into the main square (tick….tock….tick….tock) where the populace is gathered to greet him. At his signal a bell chimes and the entire crowd starts raising and lowering their arms in unison. This is either some sort of zombie salute or Japanese-style group calisthenics. (Rim shot!) Forgetting Obro for the moment Yotar gloats that the subdued people can now be molded into a superior race.

Back in the throne room, (and amazingly, we don’t see him walk there) Yotar exults, “This night the full moon is our queen.” But aaah, here’s our walking scene, for he takes 15 seconds to walk down the stairs and across the room. (tick….tock….tick….tock) After which he babbles something about a “physical union” being forced on a bunch of zombified young people we’ve never seen before. As Yotar rattles on we become aware he is planning some sort of creepy Sun-Yung Moon style group marriage for his listless zombies. To add insult to injury the men are dressed in ridiculous white thongs & cowl outfits. He then takes 18 seconds (tick…tock…tick…tock) to walk back to his throne…and sit down. Now I’m feeling pretty zombified myself, but I’m jerked awake by Yotar’s command of “Mercede!”

She enters the throne room with two trim male dancers, and the three hapless performers give an imitation of a modern dance recital held in Greenwich Village – on Halloween. It’s all very, very embarrassing. And when it’s done the seemingly underwhelmed Yotar takes 20 seconds to….get…up…off…the…throne…

and….go …to…the…door.

Giant of Metropolis

The Mass Wedding Moon Queen Dance!

Giant of Metropolis

Perhaps more than anything else, the outfits of the grooms tell us that what is happening here is just plain wrong.

Perhaps inspired by his new eugenics program, Yotar Enters another door (yes!) and attempts to sweep his unhappy queen off her feet with the immortal lines, “You are in my power. And I love you!” Queen Cheesecake rebukes him with a stinging feminist critique of his motives, “No. You desire only to possess my body. And you want to destroy every vestige of my will. But I refuse to let you Yotar.” You tell him girl! She rubs salt in the wound by adding, “I loath you!” But like the good male chauvinist that he is, Yotar merely stares at her and repeats “I want you!” Queen Cheesecake, mysteriously unable to run, fight, or do anything but cry, lets him have his way with her….And the yucky little scene fades out.

Giant of Metropolis

The movie takes a break from the endless walking from room to room to ogle Queen Cheesecake.

Yotar’s next piece of entertainment is another battle for the captive Obro. This time with armed prehistoric pygmies who “rip off your flesh with their teeth!” And so we are all treated to a lengthy scene of Obro tossing a bunch of little men about as they bite him on the back, arms, and legs – now that’s entertainment! But again, this is the best that the terrifying science of Atlantis can come up with? The weirdness continues when the pygmies get the best of Obro and pin him to the ground with pointy sticks. (Man, this guy is victimized so often he’s like the heroine of a Lifetime Channel for Women movie.) Yotar then commands them to spare him (!?), and…he…walks…out…of…the…room. (Tick…tock…tick…tock.)

Entering another room (Man this guy gets around!), Yotar is greeted by another one of his nameless scientist lackeys. He informs him that the earth’s molten core is “tending” to raise to the surface. This will lead to “new craters of volcanic origin” pumping loads of “heavy vapor” into the atmosphere. To confirm this Yotar looks into a kind of reverse periscope that looks down on a bubbling sand pit covered with dry ice fog. Satisfied the molten core really is raising he gets the inspiration to harness this power to make Atlantis even more powerful. But how to do it? He determines to consult the “the old cave dweller.” By which he means, I think, his father.

Yotar then walks about 20 feet away from the periscope and consults the old man – who isn’t his father, but a completely new character. Oops! When asked to “explain this strange phenomenon” the gaunt old man becomes the 100 th person to issue Yotar a dire, long-winded warning. They are all in for “days of terror,” because (I think, the old guy is hard to understand) all of the energy extracted so far has put a great strain on the shell of the earth. (!) A side note – the only things I’ve seen so far that require energy are the “whirlwinds of death” and the automatic doors that Yotar is always using. Otherwise Metropolis seems a very eco-friendly place. There are no factories, planes, trains, or even cars, flying or otherwise. Everyone walks to where they want to go. In fact, I’m not even sure the wheel has been invented yet! None-the-less, they are responsible for putting the earth’s shell in jeopardy. Because they use – SCIENCE!!!

The old cave dweller begs Yotar not to ask the earth’s shell to withstand more than it “was meant to,” or it will exact a “horrifying revenge.” You’ll be shocked at Yotar’s reply, “No! The same way science has been able to keep you alive for two centuries it will be able to control any force unleashed by the powers of nature.”…Oh Yotar, you arrogant fool, you have been blinded by – SCIENCE!!! (But isn’t the old cave dweller a scientist? And isn’t his warning based on scientific study? Oh, never mind.)

Having put the old cave dweller in his place, Yotar spends a leisurely 20 seconds ( aaaaccckkk! ) walking across the examination room where he had Egan, rather pointlessly, “regenerated.” And where Obro is now shackled to the table. The scene is ripe with gruesome possibilities but all we get is EVEN MORE heavy handed dialogue about the coming catastrophe as a suddenly uncertain Yotar heckles Obro on his earlier predictions of doom.

The noble Obro counters that he is a messenger of hope, and that there is still time to save Metropolis. If only Yotar were not blinded by ambition and cruelty. But Yotar, blinded by ambition and cruelty, vows to destroy him. After he just spared him. And to prove his bizarre change of heart he shines a bright light in Obro’s face, causing Obro to cry out in agony. (Science!!!) And then we return to the throne room for another, sigh, test of Obro’s strength. Which is a beam of light which he must “stand up under.” No kidding!

Giant of Metropolis

Obro bears up under the brutal beam of light.

Watching Obro struggle under the terrible burden of a spot light, Yotar finally gives us his maniacal laugh. I’d cheer, only all the joy in living has been drained from me as I’ve watched Yotar pointlessly walk from point A to point B. Then back to point A. THEN to point C. Next back to point B, and then – oh, you get the point. (ha ha!)

Next comes the trial of the “goading rays.” This goes on for some time, and who’s being tortured more, Obro or the viewer?

Giant of Metropolis

Obro is goaded by the goading rays. “AUUAUUAGHAAAUGH!”

Next, “rays that freeze you!” And these finally do the trick as Obro collapses. And yet, he is still alive because, according to the mysteriously authoritative opinion of Yotar’s chief lackey, “He is endowed with vitality above the ordinary. His blood is a rarity that should not be wasted.” Yotar agrees – reversing his earlier change of heart about killing him, and returning, again, to a determination to keep him alive. Are you following all of this? It’s easy if you visualize watching a schizophrenic play tennis with himself. At any rate, Yotar decides that Obro’s blood will help with Elmos’ (delayed) brain transplant. At some point in an unspecified future. And, no doubt feeling a sense of accomplishment in reversing his earlier change of heart he…..walks… slowly… away. And…cut.

Are you ready to scream “uncle” yet? Are you??? Because we are only 38 minutes into a 90 minute movie – HA HAHA HA HA! – Sorry, I’m better now. And to make amends here’s a short intermission. Feel free to visit the concession stand!

INTERMISSION TIME!

But the intermission, like all good things, must pass, and we are now back at the movie. Perhaps something is finally about to happen, because we find Queen Cheesecake in her chambers where she is plotting with Egan to stop Elmos’ transplant. Something does indeed happen. Commanded to find a “strong and trustworthy man,” Egan LEAVES THE ROOM. Then Mercede ENTERS THE ROOM, and we get more dialogue as Queen Cheesecake attempts to persuade her step-daughter to rebel against Yotar. For once I shall be merciful and spare the reader a full account of this scintillating exchange. I’ll only note that Queen Cheesecake is strangely convinced that the oft victimized and seemingly unskilled Obro is the only man capable of defeating Yotar. For her part Mercede can’t agree to oppose her father because she’s “all alone” and has “never had anyone else to love.” Then she cries…….what a family!

And it’s back to the operating room – with Obro again shackled to the table! Now it’s Queen Cheesecake’s turn to walk across the room. And she does it gloriously! Staring down at the helpless muscleman she tells him she will set him free – right in front of Yotar’s guards! They do nothing (!) as Egan and two of the Queen’s slaves take Obro to “the secret cave of the giants.” A secret cave with giants! But while said cave is giant-free, Obro does end up spending time in them, so perhaps this is where the title comes from. Just a theory, of course.

Realizing he has been betrayed, Yotar has the strangely treasonous guard on duty brought to the throne room. Without bothering to ask who put him up to it, Yotar brings out more torture by spot light, and the guard dies.

Down at the secret cave we get a bizarre exchange where Egan explains to Obro that while he is one of the few men left in Metropolis with a free will, he can’t rebel against Yotar because his existence is “artificial.” (???) No, it’s up to Obro to fight the good fight. You know, it’s bad enough when this movie doesn’t explain things, but it’s worse when it does.

Rightly fearing Yotar’s weapons, Obro fears he can do nothing. But Egan promises to disable the weapons. (So…doesn’t that mean he IS rebelling?) All Obro has to do is overcome all the guards. Piece of cake! Only this task too daunts “Mr. No Can Do” Obro, who thinks they are too many. Not if you take them out one by one in the streets at night, counters the crafty Egan. Again Obro declines. He doesn’t want to kill anyone. Which is really nice! Especially after he’s been tortured. But Egan has no such scruples, and insists Obro get his hands dirty, as it were. Then Egan walks out of the room. (tick….tock…tick…tock)

The chief lackey, meanwhile, is also walking. Walking towards Yotar, who is back in those caves. There he tells him that they have yet to discover who helped Obro escape……and…..cut! (Great scene!)

Now we’re back outside in the blasted wilderness were we began – oh God. A trap door opens in the ground and out climbs Egan and Obro. When asked why he’s never told anyone else in Metropolis about this secret escape hatch (good question!) Egan explains that the “artificial” (?) existence Yotar has somehow “imposed” on the people of Metropolis has deprived them of all ability to resist. He continues, “Before we can save them we must first of all destroy the ruthless creatures who keep them in slavery. I think the time is propitious for you to begin your mission as a terrorist.” And this time he gets no argument from Obro….WOW!

Giant of Metropolis

Obro, out in his natural element.

Back at the caves Yotar gets (drumroll………) MORE DIRE WARNINGS, as the Old Cave Dweller starts babbling that the “signs of the heavens” warn against Elmos’ transplant. That’s because Obro has escaped – and he “has the force which comes from nature!” (What the heck is that, by the way?. B.O.?) Yotar vows that Obro will die…..and leaves…..and cut. (That was a great scene!)

Now it’s nighttime in Metropolis, and Obro, aided by a citizen with a mysteriously free will, climbs out from under the giant foot of a statue. He and his helper both attack a bunch of guards, and we get a welcome slapstick break from the endless predictions of disaster. Both Obro and his helper get their licks in, but just as a final victory seems assured the last remaining guard prepares to throw a spear at Obro. The helper jumps in front and takes the spear, and now something interesting almost happens. Turns out the hard-fighting helper was one of Queen Cheesecake’s slave girls! Now aware that the traitor might be his own queen, Yotar utters what sounds like “Texan. Texan!” …..and he walks out of the room. And….down a corridor….and down some stairs…..and through a hallway….and into a pillared chamber of some sort.

TIME OUT! – Wait a minute here. Queen Cheesecake is equipped with deadly fighting slave girls! Why hasn’t she launched a coup? Why hasn’t she done anything?? Ack! – And don’t worry, we won’t find anymore kick-ass women warriors in this movie so a golden opportunity has just be squandered.

“Texan!” snarls Yotar. Oh – It’s his queen. Her name is Texan! Or something. And now she exults to see her cruel master “trembling” with fear. I don’t see the trembling, but I’ll take her word for it. And when pressed to reveal Obro’s whereabouts she goes off the deep end and says he’s everywhere, and invisible, and invincible! Poor thing, she’s been pushed over the edge. And putting a “dying curse” on Yotar commits suicide with a poisoned blade. Pretty heavy. It gets worse when Mercede, who has been lurking out in the hallway, gives herself away. “Bring her back!” orders the evil Yotar.

And now, for the first time we see people RUNNING, not walking, down a hallway. It’s like the sun has just come out after a long winter! And Obro finally gets to act the hero as he quickly overpowers the guards and carries a fainting Mercede to safety. Where she plays the classic heroine and falls sobbing into his arms. (Why not?)

COUNT DOWN OF DOOM: At this point the movie still has nearly 40 minutes to go!

BOOONNNNNGGGG!

(That’s the sound of a giant gong being struck by a muscular slave.)

Speaking of a countdown to doom, lets cut back to the observatory, where Yotar’s scientist-lackeys have something gloomy to tell him. – After, of course, he walks across the room and up onto his throne. (tick…tock…tick…tock) Looking s-l-o-w-l-y around the room Yotar demands that they speak up. But they say nothing, and this gives him the chance to walk back across the room – and I have to keep myself from banging my head against the wall.

Finally, one of them has the courage to speak up, and we get some priceless goobly-gook about “unforeseen developments in the orbiting of the planets” upsetting the “normal equilibrium of the forces of the inter-planetary scale.” This will drastically change the entire solar system! And as a result, the axis of the earth will shift 90 degrees, in “another direction.” Which, I guess, will be much worse than if it shifted 90 degrees in the same direction. But I digress. Let’s get back to the prophesies of doom. Violent earthquakes will follow, and the ocean will submerge “whole continents.” Worse, Metropolis, “basing it’s existence and it’s great power on the energy extracted from the very center of the earth itself, is condemned to disappear. The blazing furnace over which we have built our city will be fatal.”

TIME OUT! OK, the movie’s been constantly screaming at us that it’s all the fault of Yotar’s science, but really now. A postponed brain transplant destabilizes the entire solar system??? Besides which, as described, the oncoming disaster is now inevitable, so only a massive effort to prepare for it makes any sense. So what does our cast of characters do? Read on!

Giant of Metropolis

“Unforeseen developments in the orbiting of the planets have upset in a most serious manner the normal equilibrium of the forces of the inter-planetary scale!” (If only those developments had been foreseen!)

Yotar, egged on by the six feverish minds who wrote this epic suddenly regains his courage and denies that Metropolis can be destroyed, so he refuses the advise – of his SCIENTISTS – to emigrate to higher ground. So while an escaped muscleman fills him with dread, the prospect of the entire solar system spinning the world like a top leaves him unmoved…..interesting. Yotar also accuses his scientists of losing “faith” in their power to wield science – because of Obro. (???) And he insists, without any evidence, that they must know enough to save Metropolis. And with that he….walks out of the room. And….cut.

I think I’ve discovered the problem here. Yotar is clinically insane.

What, if anything, the scientists do to try to save Metropolis we don’t know, for we return to the more pressing job of searching for Obro, the terrorist. This requires the guards to….walk down corridors and out across the square! Which in turn forces Obro and Egan to SNEAK down corridors and lurk behind pillars. Behind one such pillar Egan promises to show Obro the “Hall of Arts & Sciences.” (This is probably where the “artificial” citizens of Metropolis hold their award ceremonies.) There he is to kill all the guards, “without mercy.” And this Obro, armed with that big animal jaw, does. More slapstick!

COUNT DOWN OF DOOM: The movie now has 30 minutes remaining!

BOOONNNNNGGGG!

After we see Yotar once more harangue his guards about capturing Obro, and Mercede, we cut to the next act of terrorism. This time it’s a pitched battle out in the courtyard, with Obro wielding a pair of branches that are shaped like giant claws. More slapstick! And boy, the wheels are finally coming off as the movie rushes from one professional wrestling event to the next.

TIME OUT! Perhaps it strikes you, as it does me, that the guards of this super advanced civilization are armed with nothing but spears? Just saying….

Back in his hideout, and exhausted by his fight, Obro groans as Mercede dabs his wounds with a wet cloth. She also cheers him on with defeatist talk of Yotar’s invincibility. Stung, Obro accuses her of still being under her father’s sway. And here she gets kind of needy and clingy, and goes into a big schpiel about how she has to fight off her father’s influence whenever he leaves her alone. To this he barks that her “heart is empty” and her “soul is dead.” Good gravy! When she protests this isn’t so he rewards her with this interesting proclamation: “Your despair proves that you are still alive.” (My despair, on the other hand, proves that I’m still watching this movie. Yuk, yuk !) And things keep getting weirder and weirder with Obro and Mercede.

SHE

Tomorrow. How do you think I could have any idea of the meaning of this word? (???) For in my position I was unaware of the future. I only wanted to conform. (So she’s a typical High School student. But you know, it’s only a phase, so nothing to worry about.) But now I want to live! (See? I told you!)

HE

I love you Mercede! (That was fast!) You’re made like I am. (She’s a guy, in drag?)

SHE

Show me what it is to live Obro!

And…..fade to the afterglow.

Giant of Metropolis

Obro shows Mercede what it is to live! Hubba, hubba.

Back to the afterglow, and some “Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars” chitchat.

SHE

Will you tell me of the land in which you live?

HE

There’s nothing else to tell you. You know all about it now. (WOW!)

But she presses him, and so he rhapsodizes about a land where the king has no power to say who can marry who. Which sounds good! “We obey the laws of another. A superior being.” He continues, reminding us that this movie was written by staunch Catholics. Obro finishes by promising to take Mercede away to his world – which I understand from earlier dialogue is ruled over by her father. So…….

Back at the palace, Yotar looks at his young son Elmos while a scientist says, and I include his statement because I want to make sure you GET THE POINT – “You have asked the scientists of Metropolis to provide the ultimate proof of your power. We are prepared.” (YES. There WILL be a test, AFTER the review! And SORRY about all the CAPITAL LETTERS. I’m GOING a little CRAZY.)

Faced with the final choice of “life or death” for his son, Yotar hesitates and asks if his lackey is sure the operation will be a success. Here’s the answer he gets, “Only the force of inscrutable fate is powerful enough to overthrow the inflexible laws of science!” I think I’m going to have that framed and hang it on the wall!

The answer works for Yotar. And though he has a poignant look on his face he leads the cheerful little boy to the operating room with promises of an outdoor play session. (Booo!)

TIME OUT! By the way, is anyone paying attention to the molten core about to erupt? Or the unbalanced solar system? Anyone?

In the operating room, or the Hall of Arts & Sciences, I think they call it (!), a body is lowered away below the operating table while a lackey intones, “Go in peace to the world of shades venerable father of Yotar. Your death will mean the joy of eternal youth for Elmos.”

TIME OUT! EXCUSE ME , but doesn’t this operation mean death for Elmos, and life for the brain of Yotar’s father? Isn’t that what makes it so horrible? And how can a brain transplant give Elmos eternal youth? What the hell is going on here?

Now Yotar hands his son, who is about to enjoy death, or eternal youth, or something, off to some medical technicians, and I’m completely confused as to what I should feel. Let’s review: Yotar, to fulfill his boundless ambition, is about to give his son, the future king of Atlantis, eternal youth. Or he is about to give the brain of his father, presumably with wisdom, consciousness and memories intact, eternal youth. And the kingship of Atlantis….Why doesn’t Yotar give HIMSELF eternal youth and the kingship of Atlantis? Surely that would provide the ultimate proof of his power.

Oh never mind. Elmos is crying pitifully as he’s strapped to the table – so I should feel bad about it. This scene, it’s feverish, sweaty hands firmly grasping the heartstrings, goes on and on and on. Then we cut away from the horror of the operating room to Obro and Mercede frolicking in some dry scrub land. The music grows melodic. He grins. She simpers, and gushes on and on about the sky, and the flowers. They’re still in the afterglow. And it’s time for another confusing detail, as she tells Obro that no one in Metropolis has ever seen a blue sky. It is, of course, the “fault of our scientists.” And you’ve heard this all before, but the movie makers keep hammering away at their central idea, so Obro adds, “None of the achievements of the scientists of Metropolis are of use. There isn’t a single thing they do that is for the good of humanity!” Again, wow.

Obro and Mercede embrace, but before that can lead to anything she hears a signal from Metropolis indicating that something important is happening, (ha, ha – yea, right) and they both hurry off through the dry scrub land that has become their Eden.

COUNT DOWN OF DOOM: Twenty minutes remain in the movie.

BOOONNNNNGGGG!

Back at the operating table, the disaster predicted by the stars begins as dry ice fog starts creeping over the floor. “Soon we’ll have the first of the earthquakes. We must hurry!” says a nameless scientist. – No evacuation to higher ground for him! At the same time Egan makes a last ditch effort to dissuade Yotar from the operation. This causes Yotar to insist that Elmos won’t die. Which acquits him of deliberately murdering his son, at least. Although I still have no idea what’s supposed to happen.

As Yotar and Egan continue their debate the dubbing gets worse and worse, until the words coming out of their mouths have no seeming connection to their faces.

In one hilarious instance Yotar’s mouth continues to move for a full second or two after his words stop. It is one small consolation for having endured the movie up to this point, and I accept it gratefully.

Back to the argument. Egan has really got up on his high horse, and he confesses his betrayal in helping Obro to Yotar. As Yotar reacts with the expected rage Egan, like Queen Cheesecake before him goes over the edge and declares, “You can kill Yotar, and destroy. But you are about to see the day when you will realize the enormous power of creation. And vanquishing death is impossible!” …..I’m not sure what that means, but it floors Yotar. Who lets Egan walk out of the room alive.

Get ready to have your heartstrings pulled again, as we go back to Elmos’ operation, where it appears that the fiendish scientists are giving him a heat-lamp treatment. Doesn’t that just burn you up? (Rim shot!) (Sorry.) Oh, we’re back to Egan, who – oh my God – is walking through the hallways. He stops! He looks around, and here we get a slow 360 degree pan around the empty set that lasts for 25 seconds. Alfred Hitchcock, eat your heart out! OK, so all is clear – until a couple of guards sneak up and bloodlessly kill him with giant pruning shears. – Goodbye Egan, we hardly knew you.

Back in the hideout, Obro paces about and intuits, too late, that Egan is in peril. Refusing Mercede’s offer to come along, he starts pushing on the trap door that leads up into the city…..and cut to Yotar pacing around a dry ice fogged throne room. Out of the ether comes his dead (?) father’s voice, taunting him, again, with prophecies of his ruin and disgrace. “The wrath of Nature will punish you for your crimes.” Trying to justify himself, Yotar explains, “Science has taken your life from you. But your mind will continue to live on in Elmos. And you too shall know immortality.” ….So he’s dead, but his mind will live on. Yea. Right. Anyways, all this does is inspire his father’s shade to materialize on the throne. Fitting symbolism, I guess. From there he lectures Yotar about God. “Yotar, Yotar! A mysterious force dominates the universe. It lies far beyond the scope of any human mind. It shall remain impenetrable. The power of death shall never be vanquished!”….then he vanishes. And a stricken Yotar, suddenly as needy as his daughter Mercede, begs him to come back. That’s when Obro enters the room.

Yotar gets another heaping helping of insult – and it would be extremely tiresome if the dubbing didn’t out do itself in awfulness. At this point the voice actor, perhaps maddened by the repetitive, ham-fisted dialogue, doesn’t even try to match his voice to Gordon’s performance. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it! But there is one interesting thing about Obro’s dialogue – he insists that Metropolis will never be destroyed! (If you’re wondering why an American actor is badly dubbed in the English version of an Italian movie, see the DVD Notes at the end of this review.)

Less surprisingly, Obro goes on to say he has to kill Yotar in order to free the people. And here we have a singular fight as Obro attacks with some sort of large, plastic feather duster, while Yotar defends himself with, seriously, a large ornamental fan! Obro gains the upper hand and is about to kill Yotar with the very non-lethal looking stick when Mercede runs in begging for mercy. As Obro hesitates fresh guards enter the room and Yotar runs to them with orders to kill Obro. Which means more slapstick. And at this point even the slapstick is getting dull. At any rate, Obro is outnumbered, so it’s back to jail for him, and for Mercede.

Giant of Metropolis

Obro and the Feather Duster of Death!

The increasingly bi-polar Yotar goes back to the cave with the periscope. Looking into to it he sees rocks and stuff coming up at him as an ominous rumble fills the space. Walking over to the ancient old coot who lives down there (why???) he gets YET ANOTHER dire warning. And then the old coot….dies. Good bye old coot. We hardly knew you.

Giant of Metropolis

The end approacheth! (Hurray!!!)

Yotar’s response? More walking! Even as dark clouds hang over the city, thunder rumbles on the soundtrack, and Elmo’s never-ending heat-lamp treatment continues in the operating room. When are they going to do something? Oh, never, because the chief surgeon suspends the operation. With some long rigamarole about lessened radiation particles, a nameless doctor explains to Yotar that Elmos’ life is in danger.

At the operating table Elmos, the adorable little tyke, perks up when he sees Yotar and begs his father to let him see the sky, even as soft music wells up on the soundtrack. Taking his son in his arms the stricken looking Yotar carries him out of the operating room and – oh God Dammit! – down a long, long hallway. Then into the observatory where Elmos can see the sky.

COUNT DOWN OF DOOM: Ten minutes remain in the movie.

BOOONNNNNGGGG!

Elmos likes the sky, but innocently burbles, “Why does it have to be red?” I start to groan, because now we’re all going to hear, for the 1000 th time why it has to be red. Reprieved! Before Yotar speaks Elmos asks to look out another window. Phew! And Yotar slowly walks over towards that other window, (tick…tock…tick…tock.) (rumble…rumble…rumble)…and silently looks out.

(That was a really great scene!)

Down in the dungeon Obro and Mercede are both tied to a pillar and talking their heads off. Something about being “sorry” and “having courage,” but at this point I’m starting to feel light headed and I’m not sure what it’s all about. Wait a minute, I just perked up because Obro says this, “(Yotar) is not evil, he’s only blinded by science.” Hurray, He actually said that! Then it’s back to more yammering about what can never be as the camera drifts off over the walls until we see Yotar, still walking the corridors, and still carrying Elmos. Don’t his feet ever get sore? Oh well, no time to worry about that now, for the captain of the guards comes and reports that the people are becoming unruly, the magnetic fields no longer work, and the ocean is rising. At last! And Yotar, noble at last, tells the guard captain to save Elmos and hands him over. (The audience gets up and cheers! In the dreams of the director, at least.) He also commands that Obro and Mercede be saved. Awww. And… he walks off. (rumble…rumble…rumble.)

It’s the official kick-off of Armageddon as 2 to 3 foot waves pummel a sandy beach and mud, disguised as lava, bubbles up toward the camera! A crowd of suddenly angry Metropolitans shake their fists at the palace and shout things such as:

“Stop the experiments!”

“Down with science!” (No kidding!)

Looking out over the grimacing faces the once proud Yotar gives the most masochistically self-trashing resignation speech I’ve ever heard:

“I tried to overthrow the forces of Nature. And Nature has humbled me into the dust. Now Nature has defeated me!”

At which point the mob storms the palace and attacks him. – Goodbye Yotar. Nevermore shall we see you walk the hallways of your palace….

Giant of Metropolis

Adult swim meets the Apocalypse.

Amid endless shots of crowds running through heavy rain, Obro, Mercede, and Elmos reach the secret passage to the hideaway. Suddenly they, and about 30 extras, are out in a water tank, bobbing up and down in some moderately rough surf. The tank seems to be about 5 feet deep, and many poor souls sink under the onslaught of wave, after wave, after wave. Yet even as a ridiculous clay model of Atlantis explodes and sinks, a lucky few manage to find safety on a beach. (Where did that come from?) Among them are Obro and Mercede, but hey, no sign of Elmos! Yikes. But as Obro and Mercede cling together in shocked relief we can console ourselves with the thought that love has triumphed, and they are sure to have many children.

The End!

Sean Ledden (Sept 2010)

Afterthoughts

Yauwza! Thanks for staying with me for 92 minutes of pop-culture Purgatory. But while ‘Giant of Metropolis’ is tough to sit through, it’s combination of commercial B-Movie schtick and earnest sermonizing is fun to analyze, and pick apart!

Lots of science fiction movies warn of the perils of science gone mad, but ‘Giant of Metropolis’ is the only commercial movie I’m aware of that actively states, again, and again, and again, that science is in itself evil and destructive. And because characters in the movie speak of their ‘faith’ in the power of science, the filmmakers seem to see it as a rival religion competing with Christianity for converts. They take refuting this false god very seriously indeed. So seriously, that they hamstring the movie.

Over and over the script shouts at us that nothing, NOTHING!, good can come from science, almost to the point where foam is coming from its mouth. And to prove it Metropolis, the capital of science, is the dreariest place on earth. (With the exception of Giovannini’s beautiful sets – which are one of the movie’s few concessions to entertainment value.) The zombified populace are incredibly dull. The sky is a ‘scientific’ grey. Even the elite, who should be whooping it up with all manner of sinfully conspicuous consumption, are miserable. Including the guy who was brought back from the dead! The (nameless) scientists themselves? They have all the fervor of office temps cataloguing a company’s quarterly earning statements.

So why is Metropolis so committed to this dreary life? It all comes down to Yotar’s will to power and his magical, I mean scientific, ability to hypnotize everyone around him. So Science equals Tyranny, the movie screams triumphantly! Um, right. And this leads us to the problem of Yotar. I get it that he’s supposed to be cold and implacable, just like science itself, but why can’t he ever make up his mind and actually DO SOMETHING? Besides glare at people, ignore any advise that’s given him, and walk slowly from room to room to room. In my view the movie’s original sin is giving us a static and boring villain. Booo!

But while Yotar is boring, some of the choices that the screenwriters made are fascinating. Take Yotar’s supreme crime – his willingness to sacrifice his son in the name of ‘science.’ A very similar story lies at the heart of the Old Testament when Abraham proves willing to sacrifice his own son in the name of obedience to God’s will. God doesn’t make him go through with it, but…Were the writers aware of this uncomfortable parallel? I don’t think so.

One parallel the screenwriters obviously were aware of, however, is between the sinking of Atlantis and the Great Flood. In both cases a disobedient mankind gets what it deserves, and most of the people in the world die. It’s a strange notion of justice, particularly in the case of ‘Giant’ where only a tyrant and his small circle of scientists commit the offense. I mean, if we’re going to dream up a supernatural retribution for hubris, wouldn’t a lightning strike on the palace suffice? Sure……unless your ultimate goal is to inspire a deep fear of God. Which means painting Him/Her as a lethal martinet. This is an old trick, and one I’m sick of. And if anyone tries to tell me that God wiped out the vast majority of mankind because he ‘loves’ them I’m going to scream. There, I’ve just delivered a tirade worthy of Queen Cheesecake herself!

OK, so some confused thinking led to a boring villain, but what about the hero? Well, it’s weird, but he kind of creeps around the edges of his own movie. He goes to Metropolis to deliver an apocalyptic warning, and that should make him stand out. But EVERBODY in Metropolis is delivering apocalyptic warnings, ALL THE TIME. And none of them change a thing. And despite all the talk of Obro’s ability to strike fear in the tyrant’s heart, he’ like everyone else and is merely swept along by events put in motion by Yotar. You know guys, and I’m speaking to the writers, it takes more than muscles to make a hero.

DVD NOTES

RetroMedia Entertainment has lovingly put together a remarkably complete DVD package for ‘Giant of Metropolis.’ You may have noticed that the picture quality of the screen shots wasn’t so good. Aware of this problem, RME begins the movie with a touching note that explains they worked with the best available surviving elements, but…

In addition to the English version, you can also enjoy the Italian version, a nice gallery of publicity shots, and a delightful interview with Gordon Mitchell himself – still going strong at 78 years of age! He covers the highlights of his long career, including a stint as one of Mae West’s chorus line of musclemen, and tells us why we don’t hear his voice in this, his first Italian movie. Apparently they pretty much threw him onto the set the moment he got off the plane. Once there they handed him his lines, written in Italian! Since that wasn’t going to fly a suitable compromise was worked out where he just made up his own (sometimes dirty) words as he went along! This worked because they never recorded dialogue on the set anyway. But when it came time to loop in the voices Gordon was already working on his next picture. So some poor voice actor had to try to match the actual dialogue to Gordon’s dirty little ditties as best he could. Viva Italian movie-making!

Regrettably, I discovered that Gordon passed away a couple of years after this interview from his page on the B Movie Beefcake portion of Brian’s Drive-in Theater, But at least we can still enjoy his voice, and winning personality, on this DVD.

Here’s the link to Gordon’s page

Read more about The Giant of Metropolis at

IMDB

20 comments to The Giant of Metropolis (1961)

  • David Fullam

    I might have liked this one better if someone could spring for a proper restoration. I think it really needs to be seen cleaned up. I did like the ladies, the costumes and the production design though.

  • Sean

    I agree – a cleaned up print would be a treat for the eyes. Though I’d turn the sound off and put on a music sampler from composers like Ennio Morricone and Stelvio Cipriani.

  • guts3d

    “…At this point he should break into a maniacal laugh, but sadly does not. ” <— Priceless!
    Nice review, as always! I have often wanted to travel to a neighboring city and tell them that they are "wrong" in the vaguest of terms and see what they make of it. But then I come to my senses and leave them be. Visiting strange citys' nut houses seems a daft way to spend my vacation time… Dennis, triple his salary!

  • Sean: consider your salary tripled! Anything over that will have to come out of guts3D’s pocket…

  • Sean

    Tripled? Wow! Now I can afford cheese AND macaroni – at the same time! Thanks guts3d!

  • guts3d

    Wait! Cheese AND macaroni? I think someone is living large at our expense here… I was thinking more along the lines of bread and water for the first few months.

  • Sean

    ……….(hurt silence)………….

  • reat review! Some of the sets by Giorgio Giovaninni look as though they may have been foreground miniatures. Could you tell if this was the case?

  • guts3d

    Just kidding,Sean! I’ll even toss in a few packages of beef, pork, and chicken ramen noodles.

  • Sean

    Thanks Randy, and that’s an excellent observation. I can’t confirm it, but I think you are right about the foreground miniatures- or paintings? Given how careful they were about production expenses it now seems unlikely to me that that they actually built the giant telescope thing.

    And guts3d, I will gratefully accept any and all care packages – except Spam.

  • guts3d

    Darn, a can o’ Spam was my big surprise!

  • Sean

    Ah ha – I knew it!

  • guts3d

    Underwood devilled ham? Government cheese? Slim Jims?

  • Sean

    You know, I’ve thought about it, and I just wouldn’t feel right about making you send a care package over to me. Many, many thanks for the kind intention, but……

  • guts3d

    Well, I did get you a raise, let’s call it square!

  • Sean

    It’s a deal!

  • Huh? Sean got a raise?

  • Sean

    Well, yeah. Don’t you remember? I’m getting twice as much as I was before. And if you try to back out now I’ll sue!

  • guts3d

    I’m a witness!!

  • Guts3d

    Would dad’s brain even fit into a boy’s skull? Sigh. So many questions…

    It would if you carved off the portions that are too large to fit.

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