‘The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart.’

When you leave the cinema so awe-struck by the film you’ve just seen that you’re unable to even discuss it with the people who accompanied you there, that’s usually an indication that you’ve seen something extraordinarily special.

That’s what happened to me recently when I went to see a one-off special screening of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS at the Irish Film Institute here in Dublin. The film was being shown for two reasons.

Firstly, it was April 2016’s choice for the monthly Bigger Picture presentation, which argues for a film’s place within the canon. I think everyone there was of the opinion that this legendary silent film speaks for itself…!

Secondly, METROPOLIS formed part of the FUTURES PAST: HOW CINEMA OF THE PAST HAS IMAGINED OUR FUTURE season being held in the IFI this month. Other films being shown included THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE, STANLEY KUBRICK’S 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, SILENT RUNNING, SOYLENT GREEN, GATTACA and GEORGE LUCAS’S THX 1138. There’s enough material in there to satisfy even the hungriest fans of futuristic movies…!

Because of the scientific content of this dystopian film, it was introduced by Lynn Scarff, the Director of the Trinity Science Gallery here in Dublin. Mercifully, Ms. Scarff kept it brief! She acknowledged herself that we were all dying to see the film, a mostly fully restored version of which was being shown to us, complete with the English subtitles and German intertitles, as they’re called.

Do we all know that METROPOLIS is a film about a terrifying futuristic slave nation, in which miserable workers toil endlessly underground manning the machines which keep the city above-ground ticking over for the overlords who live there? Well, it is.

It sounds nightmarish, doesn’t it? It truly is a dystopian nightmare, at least for the poor drones who risk life and limb in the hellish steam pumping out of the monstrous machines around the clock.

Fritz Lang (1890-1976) apparently was inspired to make this epic German expressionist science-fiction movie after observing the skyscrapers of New York. His above-ground city certainly resembles this famous American city in its towering buildings of glass and steel and the endless flow of traffic back and forth across the intricate interlocking network of roads.

The choreography of the workers as they march to and from their horrible duties is superb. One shift clocks off as the next clocks on, with everyone so downtrodden and depressed you can just about tell which shift is which. The music accompanying their defeated trudge is out of this world. When it’s being blasted out at you full-blast from the big screen, it’s positively mind-blowing.

The machines and the gigantic geometric sets are both fantastic and terrifying. How Fritz Lang could make a film of this magnitude way back in 1926 is incredible. He co-wrote it with his wife, Thea Von Harbou, from whom he separated in 1933.

Thea had begun to sympathise with the Nazis in the early 1930’s whereas Lang, Jewish by birth, would have had much to fear from them as the war approached. He left Germany in 1934 and started up a career in Hollywood not long after.

The main character in METROPOLIS is Freder, the son of Joh Fredersen, the wealthy ruler of the above-ground city of light, comfort, leisure and pleasure. One fateful day (as they say!), Freder follows a beautiful young woman called Maria deep down into the underground world of the workers. What he finds there makes him sick to his stomach.

Finding out that his father is forcing thousands of workers to slave away in the bowels of the earth under appalling working conditions does not sit well with the foppish young womaniser.  Before our very eyes, Freder transforms from a slightly ridiculous playboy in splendid knickerbockers into a man of real courage and compassion.

He joins with the sweet and kind-hearted Maria to save the workers from the devious machinations of his father and Rotwang, a crazy inventor. Rotwang has created a Maschinenmensch or robot-human and has given it the physical appearance of Maria, whom the workers trust implicitly.

This Maschinenmensch has been described, incidentally, as ‘a brilliant eroticisation and fetishisation of modern technology.’ I couldn’t have put it better myself. If a robot can be sexy, then this robot-human is as sexy as Marilyn Monroe mashed together with a young Diana Dors, if you can imagine such a magnificently-bosomed, doe-eyed sex-bomb. Or you can use your own ideals of feminine beauty to create an equally apt analogy, if you prefer. But whatever way you slice this tomato, boys, she is hot, hot, hot…!

Joh Fredersen wants the Fake Maria to be used to incite the workers to an ill-advised revolution, which will give him the excuse he needs to use force against them in turn. Can Freder and the Real Maria, with whom he has fallen truly, madly, deeply in love, avert a disaster for the whole city?

Is Freder really the Mediator (der Mittler) for whom the workers have been waiting for so long? Can Maria help him to be the Heart that unites the Head (his father) and the Hands (the workers)? Maybe, but the clock has already started ticking…

The underground caverns are wonderfully scary. Check out the Seven Deadly Sins. They’re positively chilling, and doesn’t Death have a lovely big scythe…? The scenes of luxury and decadence when the Fake Maria is performing her (virtually!) topless dance are so very ‘Twenties, although of course the film is meant to be set somewhere around the year 2027. We laughed our heads off at the gurning, drooling, lustful faces of the watching males. Men sure don’t change much over the centuries, do they…? Snigger snigger.

Speaking of Maria, she’s far and away the most interesting and animated character, especially when she’s being the Evil Maria. Those delightfully hammy expressions she puts on when she’s being Evil! She’s great fun when she’s Evil, but as the Real Maria she displays almost superhuman strength and courage when she’s trying to save the poor little kiddies from the flooding of the underground city.

What a gal! It’s weird to think that she (Brigitte Helm) lived all the way to 1996, especially when she’s the very epitome of that gorgeous ‘Twenties dame with the big eyes and the Cupid’s Bow lips. Fritz Lang himself made it to the mid-‘Seventies. That feels weird too, doesn’t it?

It’s just about conceivable too that some of the children in the film might be alive today, though of course they’d have to be in their nineties and older. Imagine having that on your CV. ‘I was in Fritz Lang’s ‘METROPOLIS…!’ It’s a bit like being able to say that you were in F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU. That’s really something to brag about.

I’ll leave you with a thought. It’s what makes this film a horror movie for me, as well as a superb sci-fi epic. There’s a scene early on in it when the autocratic Joh Fredersen dismisses his man, Josaphat, from his service. To be dismissed means to be sent underground forever without hope of reprieve.  

The very thought of this exile-slash-virtual death sentence sends Josaphat reaching for his gun with the intention of blowing his own brains out. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll understand perfectly why he would prefer death to a life below ground-level. And if you haven’t seen the film, you need to rectify such a grievous error post-haste. Whaddya mean, what do I mean? Go and see the film, that’s what I mean…! 


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:





This stunning two-part film series, based on an epic poem written anonymously around 1200 AD in Middle High German, is a fantasy saga and one of Fritz Lang’s finest films, which is really saying something, as he directed both ‘M’ and ‘METROPOLIS’ as well.

I had to watch each of the two films twice in order to be able to write this review, as there’s so much material and stuff to follow in each of them. The first instalment, SIEGFRIED, is two-and-a-half hours long and tells the story of the eponymous Siegfried, the muscular blonde son of King Sigmund of Xanten.

This film was a favourite of Hitler’s and Joseph Goebbels,’ his Propaganda minister. You’ll understand this when I tell you that Siegfried is tall, massively proportioned, blonde-haired, fair-skinned, healthy as a horse, with white gleaming teeth and a love of physical activity and combat. He is, in short, the perfect Aryan man, the German hero to put all other heroes in the shade. Can’t you just imagine Hitler and Goebbels clutching each other and ****ing themselves over such a perfect specimen of Aryan manhood?

Anyway, Siegried spends time in the forge of Mime the blacksmith, where he forges himself a sword so sharp it can cut a floating feather in half. Mighty pleased with himself, he decides to trot along to the Kingdom of Burgundy at Worms on the Rhine, where, he has been told, the royal kings are rich and powerful beyond all imaginings and there is a beautiful princess there, Kriemhild, who is ripe for the plucking.

En route through the forest, he kills a dragon and bathes in its blood. Why? A little bird told him it would make him invincible and it does, except for one spot on his left shoulder blade which is accidentally left covered by a falling linden leaf. Remember this fact, reader, as it will prove to be Siegfried’s undoing.

Next, he passes through the land of the Nibelungen, a race of dwarves, and is attacked by their king, Alberich, a dwarf with claw-like hands, a long pointed beard and a huge hooked nose that all give him an ‘unfavourably’ Jewish appearance, something that Hitler and Goebbels can’t have failed to notice. He is a hoarder of gold and money and treasure as well, again just like the Jews in anti-Semitic portrayals in literature and other media.

Siegfried spares him his life in return for a smashing veil of invisibilty and the treasure of the Nibelungen, although this is tainted somewhat by Alberich’s putting a curse on the treasure before he turns himself and his minions into stone. I mean, that’s the last thing you want when you come into an unexpected fortune, isn’t it? Still, Siegfried doesn’t hang about looking his gift dwarf- I mean, horse- in the mouth.

He toddles on, anyway, until he arrives at Worms, and finds that all there is pretty much as he has been told. He is hugely taken with Kriemhild and she with him and his blonde, bare-chested manliness, but before he can marry her, he has to perform a favour for her brother, the wimpy and indecisive King Gunther.

The favour is the brainchild of the ferociously bearded, one-eyed Hagen Tronje, Gunther’s closest friend, ally and protector. King Gunther wants to marry Brunhilde, the warrior queen of Iceland, Hagen Tronje tells Siegfried, but no man can marry her who has not bested her three times in games of skill and strength: the stone hurl, the long jump and the spear throw. This could be tricky, because she’s a fit, sporty bird who rules over a kingdom of Amazonian-type women and is generally reckoned to be a tough cookie.

No problemo, replies Siegfried confidently. I’ll best this queen for you, only I’ll wear the Tarnhelm, my veil of invisibility, to fool her into thinking it’s King Gunther alone who’s beaten her. The three men and their entourage travel to Iceland, and Gunther defeats Brunhilde as planned with an invisible Siegfried by his side, hurling the stone for him, actually carrying Gunther in the long jump, and throwing the spear for him too.

Brunhilde is a brunette Amazonian-type woman, as mentioned earlier, and she is truly devastated to be bested by the wimpy Gunther, who is so weedy he actually needs Siegfried to physically subdue her for him, in the guise of Gunther, on their wedding night before he can consummate their match. Now that’s wimpy, by anyone’s standards.

And poor Brunhilde! She has an abrasive and unlikeable personality, it’s true, but she’s basically being tricked into a marriage she doesn’t want to a man she despises and coerced into sex by a couple of conniving blokes, so I really think she deserves our sympathy.

By the way, Siegfried says later to Kriemhild (they’re married themselves by this stage), don’t say anything to Brunhilde about the way Gunther got me to help him to trick her into marriage, will you, because it could get us all in hot water.

A few scenes later, Kriemhild is shown spilling the beans unreservedly to a horrified Brunhild, because women can’t keep a secret to save their bloomin’ lives. Brunhild cares not for the taste of these poisoned, ruined beans and she wants revenge, and it’s Siegfried, not Gunther, she’s gunning for…

What unfolds next is a tragedy that leads nicely into the second of the two film instalments, KRIEMHILD’S RACHE or KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE. We won’t talk about it here, but it carries on the story from where it left off and ends almost in Gőtterdämmerung or Twilight of the Gods, both expressions originating from Wagner’s Ring cycle of music dramas (DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN) and signifying a burning and destruction of the world of gods and men.

You know the way that fantasy writers are always being suspected of having copied from J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic books, THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT? Well, in DIE NIBELUNGEN: SIEGFRIED, we see that Mime’s blacksmiths look very like an early variation of orc, there’s a burning plain that resembles nothing so much as the road to Mordor from Sam and Frodo’s point of view and there’s also a tower that could pass for Saruman’s, where Christopher Lee as Saruman and Ian McKellen as Gandalf ended up (in the film) flinging each other around the place like sacks of flour, with total disregard for each others’ exalted wizarding statuses. I’m not accusing anyone of anything; I’m just saying that every idea was inspired by something else, and there’s no shame in that.

All the Burgundian men have terrible hair, by the way. Another by the way is this: the composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) created four musical dramas commonly known as his RING cycle, or DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN (THE RING OF THE NIBELUNGEN). The plot involves a magic ring that grants the owner the power to rule the world, incidentally. Whoopsies. I’m going to sneeze. Aaaaaaaaa… Tolkien…tishoo…! Ahem. That’s better, lol.

Wagner composed this epic work long before the film was made, however, and took his inspiration from Norse sagas and the epic poem, NIBELUNGENLIED. Remember, the epic poem written anonymously around 1200 AD in Middle High German? Hitler was a massive fan of Wagner’s dramatic music. It’s kind of hard to watch Fritz Lang’s film or listen to Wagner’s RING cycle, both of which I’ve been doing a lot of lately, and not make that connection to ze Third Reich…!

The first film is a big commitment, time-wise, and it will take you five hours in total if you watch it twice, as I did. I admit I was a bit bemused by it first time around, so I read the accompanying booklet, then watched it again and was shocked to see how much I’d missed out on in the first viewing. I understood it much better second time around, as well.

It was so worth re-watching it though. You’ll need a block of free time to commit to this, so maybe when the wife is down the beauty parlour or the hubby’s in the bookies? Either way, they ain’t coming back any time soon…!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.


fritz lang m



‘10,000 marks reward.


Believed to have been murdered.


Age 6-a-half years. Fair hair. Brown eyes. About 3 ft 4 in height. Last seen outside the Barclay School For Infants on April 14th at about ten minutes past twelve.

Any person able to supply information, please communicate with


Chief of police or any police station.’

People are always calling ‘M’ Fritz Lang’s masterpiece. I love this film very much but I just want to point out that Fritz Lang’s ‘METROPOLIS’ exists too and might be an even better candidate for the title of this director’s actual masterpiece.

That’s not to say that ‘M,’ possibly the earliest film ever made on the disturbing and grisly subject of child murder and Fritz Lang’s first ever talkie, isn’t a masterpiece. It is, it absolutely is. But the guy can have two masterpieces, can’t he…? That’s all I’m saying, lol.

People usually think that the film is based on the murderous career of serial killer Peter Kurten, the so-called ‘Vampire of Dusseldorf,’ but Fritz Lang himself points out that Kurten was never an admitted child killer and also that the script for ‘M’ was already done and dusted before Kurten was ever apprehended. But serial killers did already exist back then, so it’s certainly more than possible that they gave Lang his idea for the film.

The German city in the film is a city living in terrible fear when the movie starts. A spate of child murders have the inhabitants on the edge of their seats, worrying themselves sick about their kiddies who are every day at risk from becoming the next murder statistic until this fellow is caught. And what won’t they do to the bastard when he is…! Temperatures run very, very high in the city at the moment.

In fact, the movie starts with a murder. Pretty, lively little Elsa Beckmann, the daughter of an impoverished and exhausted washerwoman, is cajoled away from her life by a man whose distinctive profile we first see against the background of one of the ‘WANTED! MURDERER!’ posters. It’s an effective introduction for the man the whole city is just longing to meet.

The images that imply Elsie’s death at the hands of this man, who jauntily whistles the theme from Grieg’s PEER GYNT while he lures the child casually away (his signature?), are stunning in their simplicity.

Her ball rolls away into a patch of wasteland; her new balloon is caught in some telegraph wires and flaps helplessly in the breeze. Two simple but strikingly powerful images, and pretty little Elsie Beckmann is lost to the world of man forever.

The whole city is up in arms. The police are working flat out to catch the killer. This is a good thing, right? Well, not, apparently, for certain elements of the city’s criminal fraternity.

They can’t take a step now without being caught up in a police raid to catch the child murderer. The constant police presence across the city is interfering big-time with their criminal activities. If this keeps up, they’ll be on the breadline, grumble grumble grumble. Ya gotta feel sorry for them.

A group of burglars and safecrackers, headed by a man who couldn’t look more like a Nazi if he tried, in his belted overcoat, hat, black gloves and stick (for whopping things…!), decide to catch the killer themselves and thereby loosen the coppers’ grip on the collar of the city’s criminal underbelly. Then they can go about their unlawful business in peace and quiet once more without the bleedin’ fuzz breathing down their necks all the livelong day.

The funny thing about all this is that the leader of this group, the guy in the Nazi overcoat (incidentally played by an actor who went on to have a rather succesful career under Nazi rule, so we’re not too far out), is wanted by the police on three separate counts of manslaughter.

But because the victims are presumably only adult males who got in the way of his criminal enterprises, then that’s totally okay, see? They weren’t little children. This gives us an idea of the special place reserved in hell (and in the minds of their peers) for the people who do harm to children.

The criminals, with the aid of the city’s population of beggars and down-and-outs, do actually manage to catch the murderer. They haul him in front of a secret kangaroo court consisting of criminals and their pals and there’s very much a feeling that these could tear the child murderer to shreds like wolves, if their leader so much as gives them the signal.

The man chosen to ‘defend’ the murderer brings up some very good points about the notion of capital punishment, the penalty for murder in those days. Should a man be penalised, he argues eloquently after a heartfelt speech from the murderer, if he has no control over his actions and is therefore not responsible for them? The kangaroo court are sceptical. They’re all for execution, and the sooner the better.

The counsel for the defence begs that the murderer be turned over to the police for justice to take place in a civilised fashion, rather than let him be subject to mob justice. We, the viewers, all probably know at this point that the murderer, rather than being summarily hanged or guillotined or shot by a firing squad, needs to be taken into protective custody, preferably in a mental hospital, and there analysed and given whatever treatment, if any, was available to the paedophiles of the day. The mob, however, might have other ideas…

Peter Lorre is brilliant here as You-Know-Who. His eyes are so big and expressive! He did an English language version of the film too, a version which up until only fairly recently was considered lost, and here he gives his first ever English-speaking performance in any movie ever. This makes it a very exciting discovery indeed for Peter Lorre aficionados.

The English language version of the film is a full twenty minutes shorter than the original German version, however, so for this reason I much prefer the German version with English subtitles. The two films have different, though similar, endings, if you get me, and the better ending of the two is in the German version, in my humble opinion.

The film really brings home to the viewer the vulnerability of children, the fact that they can be lured away from their parents, their friends, their homes, their schools and their very lives by an apple, a balloon, a piece of candy.

The kiddies in the film seem particularly impoverished, if Elsie Beckmann’s home and (I’m guessing) overworked single mother are anything to go by, so all the killer has to do is flash a toy or a few sweets to get the child to follow him anywhere he wants.

The spoilt brats of today with all their fabulous, expensive technology might be a little harder to lure away. You’d almost certainly have to be technology-savvy and offering something rather exceptional to get them to glance up, bored, from their iPads.

‘M’ is a truly haunting film. The lovely lost children, the terror of the murderer when faced with the kangaroo court, and the desolation of the downtrodden, impoverished mothers who’ve each lost children in this sinister way all combine to give us some genuinely disturbing images and memories that we won’t forget in a hurry. I can’t say exactly that you’ll enjoy the film, purely because of the grisly nature of the subject matter, but you’ll definitely remember it anyway.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

You can contact Sandra at: