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Donald Krim (1945 - 2011)

I have been wanting to post these vintage Metropolis ads for several days, but other, more pertinent stories kept them on the back burner. Today, news arrived that Donald Krim, president of Kino International, had lost his battle to cancer. If ever the time was right to celebrate the recovery of what was thought to be Lang's long lost science fiction masterpiece it's now, for were it not for Donald Krim, chances are we'd still be watching the 93 minute cut of this extraordinary German expressionist landmark.

Founded in 1977 by Donald Krim, the New York-based film and video distributor specializes in classic film restorations and art house imports. Films by Shohei Imamura, (The Ballad Of Narayama, Dr. Akagi), Aki Kaurismäki (Ariel, The Match Factory Girl), Wong Kar-Wai (Fallen Angels, Happy Together), Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy), Giorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth*), and many more all saw the (arc) light of day on American screens thanks to Krim.

As Dave Kehr points out in his elegant remembrance, "Mr. Krim was also known for his commitment to silent films and other classics, which he re-released both theatrically and through Kino on Video." Donald Krim died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 65. It is to his memory and tireless devotion to the preservation of world cinema that I dedicate this post.

The following ads originally ran in the Lawrence Journal World.

Image October 18, 1927

The UFA Studios production took two years to shoot and featured more than “37,000 extras including 25,000 men, 11,000 women, 1,100 bald men, 750 children, 100 dark-skinned people and 25 Asians,” according to a press release issued at the time. In June of 2007, it was determined that adjusting for inflation, the budget for Metropolis ran around $200 million. Film lovers never gave up hope. While not one frame from the uncut version of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons has ever managed to surface over the years, new pieces of the landmark German production kept popping up from time to time.

Image October 19, 1927

The print that premiered in Berlin ran 210 minutes. Paramount, who had struck a deal with Metro to help release UFA productions stateside, was dissatisfied with Lang’s stylish complexities. Critics panned the film and audiences stayed home. Paramount took scissors in hand and began snipping away, trimming the film to 114 minutes for its American release. The plot was restructured to the point of oversimplification and many crucial scenes were excised. In their wake, all that remained of the original Metropolis was an incomplete original negative and copies of shortened and reedited release prints.

Image October 22, 1927

In 1984, composer Giorgio Moroder put his American Gigolo proceeds to work by restoring the short version to its original visual splendor, complete with color tinting according to Lang’s specifications. The only downside was the insufferable score in which Moroder wrapped his gift. In July 2008, the Museo del Cine Pablo C. Ducros Hicken in Buenos Aires announced that it had found a 16mm negative of what was thought to have contained the long-lost missing scenes from Lang’s dystopian masterwork.

Image October 24, 1927

A copy of the print passed into the collection of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires in 1992. The Associated Press reported that 30 years ago, Argentine film fanatic Fernando Pena heard about a man who had propped up a broken projector for “hours” to screen Metropolis. This made no sense to him because the only version of the film Pena knew ran 90 minutes. For years, he begged Buenos Aires’ museums to check their archives for “the man’s” longer version. It was discovered and, finally, in 2010 this new material was shown to journalists for the first time, and museum curator Paula Félix-Didier declared that theirs is the only copy of Lang’s complete film.

Image October 25, 1927

Metropolis was restored twice last decade, both times under Krim's watchful care. The spruced-up 2002 print brought the film’s running time up to 124 minutes and the 2010 restoration added an additional 23. Surely there is a place in heaven for Donald Krim since he made life such a paradise on earth for filmgoers.

Portions of this article appeared in different form on emulsioncompulsion.com.

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Comments

Colonna May 26, 2011 @ 8:43 p.m.

WOW! Amazing "Metropolis" artwork! Thanks for sharing!

Rest in peace, Mr. Krim - hope your find your Yoshiwara wherever you go.

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