(aka A Daughter of Destiny)
Dir: Henrik Galeen, 1928.
108 min. Germany.
Silent with English inter-titles.


Professor Jakob ten Brinken (Paul Wegener, Der Golem) is a mad scientist and "world famous authority on genetic cross-breeding" who vows to create life by impregnating a woman from the dregs of society with a mandrake root in an attempt to study the idea of nature vs. nurture. According to legend, the root is believed to sprout from the spilled semen of a hanged man.

One night his nephew, Franz, goes out and returns with a prostitute for the Professor to experiment on. She bears him a beautiful daughter, named Alraune (played by Brigitte Helm, fresh off Metropolis), who the professor adopts and sends away to a convent. Despite her sheltering, Alraune grows up deceptive, corrupt, and promiscuous.

After convincing her boyfriend to rob his parents and hit the road, Alraune dumps him for a circus magician and becomes his assistant. The professor finds her there, performing in the circus, and reprimands her till she leaves with him. Once home, he introduces her to the upper crust and showers her with gifts in an attempt to win her love. Alraune plays all sides of the fence and eventually drives her "father" to madness and desperation.

Galeen's version of this strange legend is not the first, coming 10 years after a version now thought lost. The story would be told in 1930 and again in 1952. This version is highlighted by the cinematography of Franz Planer (who would later be nominated for Academy Awards and serve as DP on Breakfast at Tiffany's) and the haunting performances of Wegener and Helm. This often overlooked gem of German cinema is a twisted take on the traditional Frankenstein legend and a perfect last date movie.

Trailer by Danielle Burgos



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