This film is unusual, if only for its premise. Erich Von Stroheim plays Ten Brinken, a scientist who has created a women by means of artificial insemination. Ten Brinken used the sperm from a hanged murderer and the egg from a prostitute. Ten Brinken raises the girl (whom he has named Alraune, German for "mandrake") as his daughter, but is convinced because she was created artificially, she will inherit all the unsavory characteristics of her "parents". Only evil will befall all those who may fall in love with her. And tragic circumstances do follow all the men she tries to fall in love with. There is an odd element thrown in which suggests Alraune has supernatural powers. She convinces Ten Brinken to by a worthless parcel of land. She then commands some workers to start digging where they discover a spring whose waters contain healing properties. Ten Brinken and a wealthy woman invest in it but the spring runs dry and Ten Brinken ends up almost financially ruined.
Despite the films very adult premise, I could not help thinking that this film has the feel of a film belonging in era much older than the 1950's. The few American critics who reviewed the film when it was released in America in 1957 also noted an old fashioned air fatalism throughout the film. Karl Boehm (later of PEEPING TOM) is convincing as the young man who falls in love with Alraune, despite being aware of her ghastly origin and is the only man Alraune finds true love. Critics said he was to naive and boyish for the part, but I think that was what was right for the role.