The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Alraune is an occult fantasy, a modern reworking of the mandrake myth woven together with elements of Frankenstein (1818) and played against the background of the decadence and moral collapse that preceded World War I.

Inspired by the legend that mandrakes (alraunes in German) are engendered by the semen of hanged criminals, Frank Braun, a dissolute young lawyer, proposes an experiment to Professor Jacob ten Brinken: The creation of a woman through artificial insemination. Nymphomaniacal prostitute Alma Raune is impregnated with the final emission of rapist-murderer Peter Noerrissen, collected at the moment of his execution by guillotine. The experiment succeeds, and the mother is imprisoned until the midnight birth of a female child. The difficult labor kills the mother, who is the first victim of the sensual, amoral, and marginally human Alraune.

Ten Brinken adopts the child, encouraging and observing with delight the development of her evil nature and its effects upon those around her. Like the mandrake of superstition, she brings wealth to the house, along with unhappiness and destruction.

Alraune’s manipulation of those who fall into her web causes her expulsion from the convent where she is initially reared; at home she mesmerizes, enslaves, and ultimately destroys a series of men and women whom she encourages while denying herself to them, maddens with jealousy, and goads to destroy one another....

(The entire section is 556 words.)