Alraune (1928 film): Wikis

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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 date(s) January 25, 1928
Running time 108mins
Country Germany Germany
Language silent film
German intertitles

Alraune (also called Unholy Love, Mandrake, or A Daughter of Destiny) is a 1928 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




The story began when a rich Professor specializing in genetics decided to conduct a perverted experiment of impregnating a woman of low social status with a mandrake, which was believed by legend to sprout from the semen of hanged prisoners which fell to the ground. He asked his young nephew, Franz, to obtain a woman from the "scum of the society". Franz was obviously against what his uncle wanted and reluctantly went to look for a woman, a prostitute, and the experiement was done on her.

Alraune (or Mandragora in some versions, Mandrake in English) grew up to become a beautiful innocent-looking young lady. However, within her angelic features lurks a corrupted soul. The Professor, who decided to adopt Alraune as his own daughter, sent her to a convent to study. Although she was sheltered from the influences of the outside world, Alraune grew up quite promiscuous and troublesome. She sneaks in her boyfriend inside the convent. She even played pranks on the nuns, much to the bewilderment of her otherwise innocent peers. Using her charm, she was able to convince her naive boyfriend to steal from his parents and run away with her. At first the young man was reluctant but eventually gave way for his love for Alraune. He got the money (by stealing from his father who works in a bank), Alraune met with him and they board a train together.

The professor then met with his nephew Franz, who after all the years, was still against what his Uncle did. The unrepentant Professor then showed Franz his journal, with details of Alraune's development over the years. Franz was appalled and warned his uncle about the consequences of his actions for violating nature and that the price of what he did would be too high for him to bear. He left still disappointed at his uncle just about the time when the Professor's servant gave him the letter from the convent informing him that his "daughter" was nowhere to be found.

Inside the train, Alraune displayed her promiscuous nature by exchanging meaningful glances with a stranger, much to the dismay of her boyfriend. At one station, she met some circus performers and she was able to attract the attention of the circus magician. The magician went on to charm Alraune by performing some magic tricks. He then put a mice at Alraune's leg to incite surprise but he was the one who was surprised when Alraune didn't show any fear. The sight of the magician touching Alraune's leg prompted her jealous boyfriend to attack the magician leading to a scuffle. Alraune at first seemed concerned but later a sinister smile was seen on her face.

After months of searching for Alraune, the Professor was able to track her in a circus, performing as the magician's assistant. We also see her boyfriend working there. The audience were left to assume that realizing that they have nowhere to go and with limited resources, they both decided to work at the circus. Alraune is also seen flirting with the lion tamer. The magician, whom she is also dating was obviously jealous about this. We also see her boyfriend helplessly looking after her, but cannot do anything to win her back. Alraune has totally ignored him but he still loves her. The Professor saw her performing and decided to confront Alraune in her dressing room. Alraune was obviously afraid of her "father" and after a few reprimands, Alraude decided to leave the circus behind and go back with her father and forget about her shameful past. We then see her boyfriend clutching Alraune's circus costume and crying his heart out.

Alraune was for a time happy with her new life living with her "father" who showered her with gifts and life of luxury in a place where nobody knew about her previous indiscretions. She was introduced to the inner circles of the society through her father's influence and money. She lived a good life. The professor continued to chronicle Alraune's life and acknowledged that she's capable of causing him (emotional) pain (because he had fallen for her) and wondered if her promiscuous nature was due to her mother's promiscuosity passed down to her. When a Viscount who was so enamored by Alraune asked the Professor for her hand in marriage, he turned him down and reasoned that his "daughter is still young and should remain living with him". Alraune was heartbroken to hear this and told the Viscount that she'll run away with him instead.

On the night when she was to meet the Viscount to elope, Alraune found the Professor's journal. She found out about the truth about her life and existence. She was angry at her "father" for having lied to her and questioned her place in the society. Feeling betrayed, she harbored thoughts of killing the professor but later changed her mind. She wanted to exact her revenge in other ways. She met the Viscount to tell him that she decided to stay with her father.

She went on to incite her father's jealousy by publicly flirting with the men at a party they attended together. Franz sent her a note to meet with him, having traveled to see her when she wrote him to help her because she finally knew about her life. She continued to make the Professor jealous until he told her that he'll give her everything but they should leave again. They left for a new town to start anew. Alraune continued to attract men and seduce the Professor, who still didn't know that Alraune already knew about his secret. She kept on teasing him and inciting jealousy. He is at the point of relenting but had some reservations, until Alraune told him that she knew about her life's secret. He was delighted to know so he can finally pursue his love and obsession for Alraune. She later went to meet with Franz, whom she was able to charm as well. The Professor realized he loved Alraune too much to let her go, he wrote in his journal that she either stays with him or have her killed.

The next night, the Professor and Alraune went to a gambling club. The Professor found out that because of his and Alraune's affluent lifestyles, his ventures collapsed and his money and resources were depleted. He then asked Alraune to join him in a gambling table, believing the mandrake legend that whoever possesses it will have good luck. After a winning streak and a lot of winnings, Alraune left the professor in the midst of the round and goes home to pack her things and escape. The Professor later realized that his "lucky mandrake" is already gone and eventually lost his winnings. He finds Alraune home packing and realizes that she is really leaving him. He asked her to stay, sell her remaining jewels for money and move to a new place where they can find happiness. She tells him that she will, but not with him. The Professor grabs a knife and chases Alraune around the house to kill her. Franz was able to arrive and stop him. Alraune then pleads Franz to take her away and "give her another soul and a heart so that I can be a human being and capable of love", Franz took Alraune with him, leaving the Professor, finally culminating his warning for violating nature, therefore being condemned to a life on loneliness and insanity. It is unknown if Alraune meant having changed, or if she's also determined to destroy Franz for his participation on her perverted existence.

Critical Reaction

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".

See also


External links

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