Monday, June 10, 2013

ALRAUNE (1928)

aka A DAUGHTER OF DESTINY aka UNHOLY LOVE, ALRAUNE puts the lie to the notion that eroticism and perversity are an invention of the modern day.  This 1928 thing sloshes all around in pre-code sin, as you can tell from this synopsis: smart scientist Professor Jakob ten Brinken is an expert on genetic crossbreeding.  In other news, there's a legend that says mandrakes grow underneath the corpses of hanged criminals (SCIENCE BREAK: this is because hanging causes involuntary ejaculation, which you can learn more about by reading Naked Lunch and other classic literary smut at your local library, or by reading David Carradine's autopsy report).  ten Brinken dreams of impregnating a young woman with a mandrake, it's all he wants in the world, but he informs his nephew that "You must seek her out for me from the scum of society!"  Hello, scum...


And this is the mandrake...


This is some kind of kabuki demon guy that hangs on the ten Brinken wall.  It doesn't have anything to do with the story, I just like it a lot.  "NOW TRY ON CAMISOLES FOR ME"


So the whole mandrake pregnancy actually works.  And they called him mad!  It produces a girl who is named Mandrake and is thus already set to fail in the world.  Because strip clubs hadn't been invented yet, Mandrake contents herself with breaking out of a nunnery, then peer-pressuring her boyfriend to steal from his parents and take her on a train trip.


She sluts across the rails and whores her way into a circus gig.  By this point, it's starkly clear that something is wrong with Mandrake.  She exhibits behavior that moderns would call sociopathic, explores pleasures without concern for consequences, and isn't afraid of mice.  And stares down lions in the circus's lion cage.  PS: This is the first time I've ever wanted to read a feminist analysis of any work of art.


Finally, ten Brinken finds her and we go from a voyeuristic tour of Mandrake misbehavior into narrowly-averted Prof/Mandrake "incest"(? I guess? I mean, she was made out of a mandrake, but??? SPLICE?).  Don't worry, though, it all works out.


ALRAUNE sounds incredible, admittedly.  The synopsis makes it seem like it couldn't fail to be a amazing movie and yet it's so weirdly uninvolving, almost like the emotional blankness of its characters have splashed all over the film as a whole.  And story's really the only thing that this can claim as its own special merit.  The acting is decent, the visuals are fine-but-unexciting, so the potential of the story is what is going to either sell you or not on ALRAUNE.  Plus, like HARD CANDY, it ends in the most saccharine and timid way possible, although, unlike HARD CANDY, it has the excuse of being nearly 100 years old.  From the board game, ALRAUNE OR THE WIZARD OF OZ:


So she ditches what's special and different about her to become just another girl.  Have fun pinning jar pictures on Pinterest, Mandrake! Interesting, but not especially good.

RATING: 5/10

TOP TEN OF THE 1920S:
1.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
2.  The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
3.  The Unknown (1927)
4.  Maciste in Hell/Maciste all'Inferno (1925)
5.  The Wind (1928)
6.  A Page of Madness (1926)
7.  The Cat and the Canary (1927)
8.  Genuine: the Tale of a Vampire (1920)
9.  Alraune (1928)
10. The Magician (1926)

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