Metropolis debuts on Blu-Ray but where's the heart?
With many a film fan salivating at the chance to own the newly reconstructed and restored edition of Fritz Lang’s landmark 1927 feature Metropolis on Blu-Ray a certain soap opera has emerged between the film’s distributors in the US and the UK, Kino Lorber and Eureka respectively. Region encoding is known as the bane of international film fans who seek the very best version of a given film for home viewing. That being the case both Kino and particularly Eureka’s premier ‘Masters of Cinema’ range, which is handling this title, have opposed the measure wherever possible. This being the case it was a bit surprising when Kino asked MoC if they would region lock their release to ‘Region B’ (Europe); an agreement apparently sealed in some kind of a written contract. Of course Kino, to keep things fair, would reciprocate by locking their title to the US ‘A’ encoding.
With the final products all printed and ready to go for release early next week it has since emerged that Kino’s Blu-Ray is region-free. Robert Sweeney of Kino Lorber has claimed it was an honest production mistake but it’s certainly suspicious that their packaging also lacks the usual ‘Region A’ logo which accompanies the vast bulk of home film releases. Meanwhile it’s too late for Eureka, whose first run of the film are locked to Region B, to counter the move.
Of course this development technically doesn’t infringe on either companies’ gain with the licenses they originally paid for but for those in the US who seek out the best it’s certainly a blow. While those living in Europe would be mad to pay a higher price tag to import Kino’s edition when it lacks the original German intertitles, hefty booklet, stylish packaging and certain extra supplements (the gem being a full audio commentary from scholars David Kalat and Jonathan Rosenbaum) that the MoC sports it would have been nice for American film enthusiasts to have easy access to them. It certainly looks like Kino exercised a cynical ploy to lock a superior edition out of the US market except for those who are willing to pay for a regionless Blu-Ray player; often a tricky thing to come by without a fair amount of digging.
For the casual film fan it’s surely not a big thing but for those who spend a lot of money patronising boutique film labels this is certainly a knock to Kino’s already shaky reputation. After years of representing B-grade DVD releases of often A-grade films, Kino seemed to be pulling itself up with some top-notch Blu-Ray releases (notably bringing Buster Keaton up to 1080p) but then they manage a move like this. After all, the best Kino can claim from all this is a serious negligence in supervising their own product.
Thea von Harbou’s famous script for Metropolis implores, “There can be no understanding between the hands and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.” So Kino, where’s the heart?