Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”

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Jeremy Rowe

Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”

Based on Thea von Harbou’s 1925 science fiction novel, Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s 1927 film was one of the most visually stunning works of the Weimar period productions. Lang had previously made several ground-breaking films, including The Spiders and Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler. Metropolis began filming in 1926 and took over 17 months with a $19 million budget to complete. At 2 ½ hours it was very long for a silent film, so several shortened, edited versions were quickly produced and distributed. The futuristic, expressionist above ground and dystopic below ground scenes created for the film were innovative and shocking, and significantly influenced visual science fiction depictions in movies from “Flash Gordon” to “Blade Runner.” The public learned of Fritz Lang’s futuristic imagery through production-stills made during the filming, printed material such as programs and posters, and a series of real photographic postcards with striking images extracted from the film. Few of the production-stills were produced and today they are very rare. The contemporary real photographic postcards were produced in greater numbers, but most, particularly the iconic images of the robot are relatively uncommon today and are highly sought by collectors.
The series of Metropolis real photographic postcards produced are numbered from 71/1 to at least 71/12. Several of the images are similar to the production-stills but appear to have been made from actual scenes in the film, including two striking iconic scenes of Maria and the robot. These postcards were produced by the Ross Verlag Publishing Company of southwest Berlin beginning about 1927.
Ross also published thousands of high-quality silver bromide real photographic postcards of popular celebrities like actors and dancers, and theatric tableaus.  Ross often published other images of popular European and English stars, and American film actors. Many are glamor poses, with others in costume from plays and motion pictures, synergistically taking advantage of the public interest, and helping to promote the celebrities and films.
The success and stunning visual settings of Metropolis, and the popularity of its stars made the film a natural subject for Ross.
 Eighteen-year-old Brigitte Helm burst into stardom from her dual roles as Maria and the robot. Helm appears in many of the postcards and continued to be a popular subject for Ross as she continued her rise to stardom with roles in later films. Other stars from Metropolis who became and remained popular subjects for Ross real photographic postcards included Gustav Fröhlich (in the role of Freder Fredersen), Alfred Abel (in the role of Johann Fredersen, and Rudolf Klein-Rogge (in the role of Erfinder C. A. Rotwang).   Seeing the Ross postcards from Metropolis triggered memories of first seeing the film in high school and was a catalyst in seeking and collecting Ross real photographic postcards. These images from Metropolis fascinate me, perhaps it is the same for you. ***
Metropolis advertisement in Cinema Magazine March 3, 1928.
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Very interesting article. I faintly remember hearing about this, and now I’m intrigued to find out more about the film. Thank you. Stunning postcards!

None available on ebay. Must be very expensive

Hello Jeremy. Nice article on this fantastic set of cards. We meet at a New York Post Club show a couple years back. I’m happy to say I finally got the #6 card by way of Istanbul Turkey to complete my set. It took a lot of years but it finally happened. All the best TOM

This is an interesting article. It reminded me of when lost portions of the film were discovered in Argentina in 2008:

Such brilliant images. Makes me want to collect them.

I saw Metropolis in a college class on film history, but don’t know if the professor showed the complete movie or just one of the shortened versions.

Outstanding article and great cards Jeremy. Stunning silent movie!! My favorite.

Past Article

Hy Mariampolski


It’s been called the most important art exhibition held in the United States. The 1913 Armory Art show sponsored by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors changed the minds of Americans interested in modern art. The doors were open 12 hours a day for a month and postcards led a flood of art lovers to the hall.

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