Alraune - 1928 - 6/10
AKA - A Daughter Of Destiny
Silent version of Hanns Heinz Ewers’ mandrake tale stars Brigitte Helm.
The daughter of a prostitute and an executed criminal, she is the ward of an obsessive professor.
Around her is a litter of longing males, who leave her curiously uninterested.
Flawed film suffers broad over-acting and choppy narrative, perhaps from censored footage.
The movie swirls with nervous energy throughout, and will appeal to Weimar cinema buffs.
Musical score is classical medleys (predominately Mussorgsky and Debussy) with jazz combo tossed into nightclub scenes.
There are two earlier versions.
A 1919 one, directed by Curtiz, considered lost, and an extant 1918 which I have been unable to track down.
There are also two later versions.
Alraune - 1930 - 6/10
Sound version of the 1928. Brigitte Helm reprises the lead, with new director and cast.
The “mandrake myth” is most pronounced in this, as are the scientific dabbler’s motivations and collaborators.
In this, the princess, desiring an heir, is the trial run.
Alraune, however, is the breakthrough, an artificial experiment brought to adult fruition.
Helm not only plays Alraune, but also Alma, the prostitute incubator.
During her turn singing a cabaret number, one can easily understand why she was Von Sternberg’s original choice for Lola Lola in Der Blaue Angel.
Typical of an early talkie, static camerawork seems rudimentary, the pace is dreary.
Both prints I viewed were nth generation soft, and overlaid with hard Danish subs.
Sound leaves much to be desired, but is passable.
Alraune - 1952 - 6/10
AKA - Mandragore
The luminous Hildegard Knef stars as the bewitching siren.
She is at times childlike, other times maliciously cruel.
Heavy mortality among male admirers, nonetheless.
Camerawork is high Gothic, and the costumes and interiors evoke Douglas Sirk.
As with other versions, the mandrake root is referenced, but the fable, the magic, is underplayed.
Instead, the subcurrent is of eugenics, which would have been an unsettling taboo in post World War II.
The Klimt inspired set design is a highlight.