Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 31st, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: West Germany, 1952
Alternate U.S. Release Title: Unnatural
Approximate running time: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Academy Ratio
Director: Arthur Maria Rabenalt
Writer: Kurt Heuser
Adpated From: Hanns Heinz Ewers Novel Alraune
Cinematographer: Friedl Behn-Grund
Composer: Werner R. Heymann
Cast: Hildegard Knef, Erich von Stroheim, Karlheinz Böhm, Harry Meyen, Rolf Henniger, Harry Halm, Hans Cossy, Gardy Brombacher, Trude Hesterberg, Julia Koschka, Denise Vernac, Arno Ebert, Willem Holsboer
Born outside the laws of God and man!
Synopsis: A scientist creates a woman who on the outwardly appears perfect, while inwardly she is a soulless entity that has no moral compass. With her origins being an unholy union between a hanged man and a prostitute. And this was accomplished by artificially inseminating the sperm of the hanged man.
Though this film has a Gothic Horror vibe, it’s far-fetched premise ventures into the realm of science fiction. With that being said, there is one area where this film does not fully deliver in regards to its most unusual premise. And that is how the film does not exploit the more salacious aspects of its premise and how the narrative resembles something more akin to what one would expect from a melodrama.
The main focus of the plot is a young woman named Alraune, who’s striking beauty bewitches all men who cross her path. With her main suiters being a trio of friends and one of these men is her cousin Frank Braun. And though Frank initially finds himself deep within her web of obsession. He soon retreats, when he uncle reveals her origins. Things take a turn for the worse, when Frank returns and he once again falls under her spell.
Without a doubt this film’s greatest asset is its visuals which provide some much-needed atmosphere. Standout moments include, the scene that introduces the Alraune character. Other standout moments include, a scene where a woman who has become involved with Frank is driven to suicide by Alraune. And the film’s finale which provides a very satisfying conclusion.
Performance wise the cast are good in their respective roles. With this film standout performance being Karlheinz Böhm (Peeping Tom, Fox and His Friends) in the role of Frank Braun. Other notable performances include, Hildegard Knef (Murderers Among Us, The Sinner) in the role of Alraune. From a psychical standpoint she more than fulfills the role of the seductress. And Erich von Stroheim (The Wedding March, Sunset Blvd.) in the role of Jacob ten Brinken, the disgraced scientist who brought Alraune to life. He delivers an operatic performance that is in direct contrast to the rest of the cast who performances are more grounded.
There have been several film adaptions of Alraune. With the best film adaption to date being Henrik Galeen’s 1928 silent film adaption.
Availability: The only known DVD releases for his film that I know of include a release under its U.S. release title Unnatural by St. Clair Vision and this film has also been released on DVD in Germany by StudioCanal.