23 October 2011 | melvelvit-1
The evils of artificial insemination
Brooding scientist Professor ten Brinken (a stern Erich von Stroheim), thrown out of Uni for his blasphemous beliefs, creates a "daughter" (Hildegarde Knef) from the sperm of a double murderer and the egg of a prostitute in his castle laboratory and raises her under the gallows, where the mandrake root grows. It's an experiment in genetic theory but true to the plant's legend, Alraune will bring good fortune just before death and destruction as the movie opens with the girl escaping from a convent and making her father rich when she divines a mineral spring on land he bought. Falling for her cousin (Karlheinz "Peeping Tom" Boehm), Alraune feels something for the first time but luck won't last long and although her "evil" isn't premeditated (much), she's responsible for an attempted suicide, a framing for theft, a fatal accident, a duel, death from exposure, bankruptcy, and public disgrace. The story ends with the inevitable: Alraune, crying tears she never could before, gives up the man she loves lest he be cursed, too, and her "father", who gave her life, takes it away and goes to the gallows in a fitting twist of fate. The film equates artificial insemination with the crimes of Viktor Frankenstein but blames the creator since love is what gives us our souls and Alraune had become human.
The German production's a handsomely mounted, atmospheric period piece with an Expressionism the original 1928 silent lacked, especially in the gloomy castle, and some thunder, wind, and rain are there to underscore a point or two. Obviously THE BAD SEED, a hit Broadway play and Hollywod movie about hereditary evil that came out a few years later, wasn't exactly innovative. The dubbed U.S. version, UNNATURAL: THE FRUIT OF EVIL, is missing ten minutes and eliminates any reference to artificial insemination.