The painter Percy (Harald Paulsen) is an artist. His has just painted the portrait of Genuine (Fern Andra). Upon completion the portrait beings to take over Percy’s life. He refuses to sell it or let anyone see it. When a wealthy patron wants to buy it Percy refuses and sends him and his friends away. He spends his time alone with the painting researching the life of Genuine. While reading Percy falls asleep.
Genuine is a high priestess. When her tribe is raided she is taken prisoner and sold in the slave market to an old man named Lord Melo (Ernst Gronau). Melo keeps Genuine locked up. Every day the barber Guyard (John Gottowt) comes and shaves the old man. One day he is unable to come so he sends his nephew and apprentice Florian (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski). While Florian is shaving Melo Genuine escapes from her gilded cage. She enchants Florian and has him kill Lord Melo.
After Melo is dead Genuine tells Florian to prove his love by taking his own life. He can’t bring himself to commit suicide so she tells Melo’s servant The Malay (Louis Brody) to kill Florian and bring her proof of his death. The Malay takes Florian out of the house and leaves him wandering around the forest. To make Genuine believe Florian is dead he cuts his arm and fills a goblet with his own blood.
Afterwards Melo’s grandson Percy arrives looking for his grandfather. Genuine then turns her charms on him. Percy forgets about his grandfather and devotes his attention to Genuine. While Genuine is bewitching Percy she is also falling in love with him.
Guyard, in the meantime, finds Florian. Florian is still in love with Genuine and begins wasting away. In his fevered state he rants about murdering Melo. Guyard rushes to the magistrate but they ignore him. There’s nothing left for Guyard to do but round up the villagers and storm Lord Melo’s house. Florian, still captivated by Genuine and racked with guilt, has his own plans for handling the situation.
“Genuine” or “Genuine, die Tragödie eines seltsamen Hauses”; literally: “Genuine, the tragedy of a strange house” AKA “Genuine: A Tale of a Vampire” was released in 1920 and is a German silent horror film directed by Robert Wiene. Wiene also did “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” 1920. Much of the film has a similar look as “Caligari” since Wiene used the same cinematographer, writer and production designer.
“Genuine” gets a lot of flak for not being as good as “Caligari”. There’s a partial reason for that. Originally the film was 88 minutes long. It was edited down to a 43 minute condensed version which is available in a few places. The full length version can only be viewed at the Munich City Film Museum archive in Germany. At least that was true until someone uploaded it to youtube in 2018.
Although the 43 minute version is not that clear in spots, it’s still in better shape than the 88 minute version. As for what is missing, there are some scenes that were cut completely and some that were trimmed. Many of them have little or no impact on the overall flow of the film but there are some areas that make the shorter version a little choppy. The scene where Melo’s nephew Percy arrives at the house is missing. In the short version he’s just there. The scene where The Malay fools Genuine with the goblet of blood is missing from the short version as well as Florian in the woods and other areas that are shortened.
There is also an additional scene that is the real ending with the painter Percy but I’m not sure that it adds much to the film. You also miss some of the background information that tells how Genuine ended up being the way she was. The additional scenes explain things a little more but I don’t think they make the film that much better. A little less choppy perhaps. The film is fine but if you’re going to compare it to “Caligari”, and you will, it’s just not as good a film. It’s still that dreamy German Expressionism and strange sets although they are limited in number. The costumes are also otherworldly. It definitely has that Robert Wiene flavor. A good restoration to both versions of the film would help.
The role of Florian is played by Hans Heinrich von Twardowski. He was a homosexual who fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and went on to star in prominent anti-Nazi films in America throughout WWII, including the popular “Hitler: Beast of Berlin” 1939. In it he plays a storm trooper who is sickened by what he sees.
Genuine is not really a vampire but a succubus. Close enough. A succubus is a demon or supernatural creature or entity in folklore. She appears as a female in men’s dreams. She seduces them, usually through sex. According to legend, repeated sexual activity with a succubus can cause poor physical or mental health, even death. She is usually depicted as a beautiful seductress or enchantress. The male counterpart to the succubus is the incubus.