Alraune (1928 film)

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Directed by Henrik Galeen
Produced by Helmut Schreiber
Written by Hanns Heinz Ewers (novel)
Henrik Galeen
Starring Brigitte Helm
Paul Wegener
Music by Willy Schmidt-Gentner
Cinematography Franz Planer
Release dates
  • January 25, 1928 (1928-01-25)
Running time
Country Weimar Republic
Language silent film
German intertitles

Alraune (also called Unholy Love, Mandrake, or A Daughter of Destiny) is a 1928 German silent science fiction horror film directed by Henrik Galeen and starring Brigitte Helm in which a prostitute is artificially inseminated with the semen of a hanged man. The story is based upon the legend of Alraune and the powers of the mandrake root to impregnate women. In this version the symbiosis caused by the sexual union between the human and the root causes the girl to kill all men who fall in love with her.

The film was produced by Ama-Film GmbH and distributed by Ama-Film GmbH in Germany and Ufa Film Company in the United States with English intertitles. The art direction was by Max Heilbronner and Walter Reimann with still photos by Walter Lichtenstein



A wealthy Professor specializing in genetics is ambitious to conduct an experiment with a woman of "low social status", by impregnating her with a mandrake. The plant is believed by legend to sprout from the semen of hanged prisoners. He instructs his young nephew, Franz, to obtain a woman from the "scum of society". Franz reluctantly retrieves a prostitute, and the experiement is performed on her.

Alraune grows up to become a beautiful woman with a corrupted soul. The Professor, who adopts Alraune as his daughter, sends her to a convent to study; and although sheltered from the influences of the outside world, Alraune grows up promiscuous and troublesome. She sneaks boyfriends into the convent and plays pranks on the nuns. Using her charm, she convinces a boyfriend to steal money from his parents and they elope together aboard a train.

Meanwhile, the professor shows his nephew Franz a journal, detailing Alraune's development over the years. Franz is appalled and warns his uncle about the consequences of violating the laws of nature. A servant then hands the professor a letter from the convent saying his "daughter" is missing.

Aboard the train, Alraune openly flirts with a stranger, and to her boyfriend's dismay, attracts the attentions of a circus magician, who charms her by performing magic tricks. He puts a mouse on Alraune's leg to alarm and surprise her, but she shows no fear. The sight of the magician touching Alraune's leg prompts her jealous boyfriend to attack the magician, leading to a scuffle.

After months of searching, the Professor tracks Alraune to a circus, where she is performing as the magician's assistant. We see Alraune again flirting with the lion tamer, causing the magician to become jealous. We also see her boyfriend helplessly looking after her, but powerless to win her back. The Professor decides to confront Alraune in her dressing room. Alraune is obviously afraid of her "father" and after a few reprimands, decides to leave the circus and return home with him. We then see her boyfriend clutching Alraune's circus costume and crying his heart out.

Alraune is happy for a time in her new life with her "father", who showers her with gifts in a place where nobody knows her past indiscretions. She is introduced into society through her father's monied influence, and the professor continues to chronicle Alraune's life. Her "father" secretly acknowledges that he has fallen for her and wonders if her promiscuous nature is an effect of her mother's promiscuosity. When a Viscount, also enamored by Alraune, asks the Professor for her hand in marriage, he forbids it. Alraune is distressed to hear this and promises the Viscount she'll run away with him instead.

On the night when she is to elope, Alraune discovers the Professor's journal and reading of her origins, becomes angry at her "father" for having lied to her. Seeking revenge, she tells the Viscount she has decided to stay with her father. As time passes, she incites her father's jealousy by publicly flirting with men, and continues to do so until he decides they should leave for a new town. Alraune continues to attract men and seduce the Professor until he is at the point of relenting. Finally, Alraune reveals that she knows about her life's secret and her unnatural origins. He is delighted, as now he can finally pursue his love and obsession for Alraune. She later meets with Franz, also a victim of her charms. The Professor realizes that he loves Alraune too much to let her go, and writes in his journal that she either stays with him or he will kill her.

The following night, the Professor and Alraune visit a gambling club. Alraune's affluent lifestyle has apparently depleted the Professor's finances, and he asks her to join him at a gambling table, believing the mandrake legend that whoever possesses it will have good luck. After displaying a winning streak, Alraune leaves the professor mid-round and rushes home to pack her things and escape. The Professor loses his winnings and returns home to find Alraune packing. He begs her to stay, sell her remaining jewels for money and move to a new place where they can find happiness. She replies that she certainly will, but not with him. Enraged, the Professor grabs a knife and pursues Alraune around the house. Luckily, Franz arrives in time to stop him attacking her. Franz spirits Alraune away, leaving the Professor condemned to a life of loneliness and insanity.

Critical reaction[edit]

The film has received a generally more positive reaction than the other versions based on the same myth. it has been described by leading science fiction author David Wingrove in his Science Fiction Source Book as "a frightening, erotic and highly emotional film with fine cinematography".

In 1928, The New York Times wrote, "if you like this sort of thing you'll find it a superior product. Heinrich Galeen has directed with phototographic imagination—no question that the picture has atmosphere" ; and of Brigitte Helm, "all the promises of "Metropolis" are here fulfilled. To the vampire gallery, which runs from Theda Bara to Greta Garbo, let me add the German Brigitte. She lacks Greta's delectable weakness but she gives in its place power and depth. A most engaging evening's display of erotics." [1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Movie Review - Alraune - SOME NEW GERMAN FILMS; A Grand Guignol Affair. Mysterious Criminal Yarn. -". 

External links[edit]