Alraune (1930)

The often filmed yet largely unknown stateside horror novel by Hanns Heinz Ewers is given its second treatment, following the 1928 silent version also starring Brigitte Helm. Given my familiarity with the source material, the film was easy for me to follow, although this may be difficult for those who haven’t read the novel (compounded by the fact that the readily available version I watched is missing twenty minutes). A scientist impregnates a prostitute with the semen of a hanged murderer. The female child, Alraune, is birthed and taken under the care of the scientist. She has no conception of love or intimacy, instead has spurious sexual encounters. When she learns of her unnatural origins, she swears vengeance. As you can tell, this is strong stuff for a film in 1930, even one coming from Europe. The professor and creator of Alraune lusts after her, giving the story a heavy incest dynamic throughout. Alraune is not an unsympathetic character, but, unlike Lulu in Pandora’s Box or Lola in The Blue Angel, she is judged and ultimately punished for her uncontrolled sexuality and want of autonomy. The film is atmospheric if a bit creeky and awkward, benefiting from acting more restrained than typically found in early sound cinema.

IMDB entry

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