Unnatural (1952)

“Good people are so uninteresting.”

I was curious to see the great director Erich Von Stroheim in Unnatural, but unfortunately, the film is a huge disappointment. Unnatural is an odd film with shades of Bride of Frankenstein meets Edgar Allen Poe. The result is a rather uninteresting film, and the fact that its dubbed makes matters even worse.

Von Stroheim plays the role of scientist Jacob ten Brinken who is responsible for the breeding of a beautiful girl named Alraune (Hildegarde Neff). Alraune is the result of artificial insemination between a prostitute from “the slums of Hamburg” and a murderer, and Alraune is a sort of bizarre experiment investigating the nature vs. nurture theory. Since Alraune is derived from the human dregs of society, will she prove true to her scumbag nature, or will she abandoned her genetic predictions and prove worthy of the decent upbringing she’s received from ten Brinken?

When the film begins, Alraune is kicked out of a convent for stashing obscene literature under her mattress. With this rather interesting beginning, the film slides downhill. Alraune moves like a gazelle through the film as she proceeds to seduce and then ruin a string of men–probably her most interesting qualities are a hint of the supernatural, and her complete moral vacuity. The film’s premise sounds fascinating, but the reality isn’t. The plot is loaded with cheesy cliches–including a very fake looking gorilla locked up in ten Brinken’s cellar. The film isn’t campy enough to appeal, and it takes itself far too seriously. The character of Alraune is rather restricted and contained, so a potentially fascinating character is flat and uninteresting. There’s a 1928 version of the film I’d love to see–surely someone could do something interesting with this plot. Unfortunately, this 1952  version (released in 1958) is one of those forgettable yawnfest-films, and that’s too bad as I expected a bit more.

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