Alraune (1928 film)

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Alraune
Alraune1928poster.jpg
Directed byHenrik Galeen
Produced byHelmut Schreiber
Written by
Starring
Music byWilly Schmidt-Gentner
CinematographyFranz Planer
Production
company
Ama-Film
Distributed byAma-Film
Release date
  • 25 January 1928 (1928-01-25)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryWeimar Republic
Language

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. In this version, the blasphemous sexual union causes the progeny (a daughter) to grow to adulthood quickly, behave in a sexually promiscuous fashion and cause the men who fall in love with her nothing but hardship, heartache and financial ruin, if not death.

Even her "father", the professor who created her, develops an incestuous attraction to her. Troy Howarth writes "The kinky sexuality of Brigitte Helm's performance makes the film one of the most genuinely erotic of its time, and Galeen is to be admired for approaching the material in such an adult and sophisticated manner....Alraune is, after his The Student of Prague (1926), easily his most impressive feature as director". This version of Alraune sticks closer to the original novel than earlier film adaptations and features some risque content.[1]

In the US release prints, for some reason, the Alraune character was renamed "Mandrake" in the film. Brigitte Helm reprised the Alraune role again two years later when director Richard Oswald remade the film (with sound) in 1930.[1]

Plot[edit]

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 experiment is performed on her.

The child from the experiment, Alraune, grows up to become a beautiful woman with a corrupted soul. The Professor adopts her as his daughter and sends her to a convent to study; 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. While eloping, Alraune attracts the attentions of a circus magician; he puts a mouse on Alraune's leg to surprise her, but she shows no fear. Her jealous boyfriend attacks the magician, leading to a scuffle.

Meanwhile, on learning about the experiment, the Professor's nephew Franz is appalled and warns his uncle about the consequences of violating the laws of nature. They then receive the news that Alraune is missing from the convent. After months of searching, the Professor tracks Alraune to a circus, where she is performing as the magician's assistant but also flirting with the lion tamer. The Professor confronts Alraune in her dressing room. Afraid of his reprimands, she decides to leave the circus and return home with him.

Alraune is happy for a time in her new life with her "father", who has fallen for her and wonders if her promiscuous nature is an effect of her mother's promiscuosity. However, when he forbids her marriage to a Viscount, she decides to elope, and that night she discovers the Professor's journal and discovers her origins. Angry at her "father" for having lied to her, she abandons the Viscount so that she can stay and seek revenge. Alraune continues to attract men and seduce the Professor, and finally reveals to him that she knows about her unnatural origins. He is delighted, as he has become obsessed; he writes in his journal that she either stays with him or he will kill her.

The next night, the Professor and Alraune visit a gambling club. Alraune's affluent lifestyle has depleted the Professor's finances, and he asks her to join him at a gambling table, believing the legend that mandrakes give good luck. After 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.

Cast[edit]

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 photographic 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."[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era. Baltimore: Midnight Marquee Press. p. 321. ISBN 978-1-936168-68-2.
  2. ^ Trask, C. Hooper (20 May 1928). "Some New German Films; A Grand Guignol Affair. Mysterious Criminal Yarn". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 14 August 2018.

External links[edit]