Salamander

April 11, 1928

A Socialist Realist distortion of Dr. Paul Kammerer's experiments in the inheritance of acquired character(istic)s -- the (not entirely anti-Darwinian) conjecture that certain changes the environment produces in an individual may spontaneously appear in the next generation. As recounted in Arthur Koestler's The Case of the Midwife Toad (1971), Kammerer (1880-1926) claimed that darkened footpads he had artificially induced in a toad had been passed on to its offspring. When it was discovered that his critical specimen had been injected with ink (though why and by whom is still unknown), his credibility was destroyed and he apparently suicided. Richard Goldschmidt's synopsis of the film in "Research and Politics," Nature (1949), mocks it as Soviet propaganda in support of the inheritance of acquired characters: The importance attached to the subject is revealed by the facts that none other than the then all-powerful [People's] Commissar for [Public] Education, the highly ...

Harbour Drift

January 1, 1929

A pre-Depression slice of proletarian life from Weimar Germany, Harbour Drift is unusually interesting for its indifferent pessimism, rejecting even the minor rays of hope which permeate the other low-life ‘street films’ of the period. A sordid tale of poverty and greed set within a quayside milieu of crime and prostitution, the narrative centres on the quest for a sparkling pearl necklace stolen by a beggar under the gaze of a prostitute, who persuades her unemployed friend to steal it back, with tragic consequences. The story unfolds in flashback, without irony or a hint of redemption: life simply goes on. The film is remarkable for the innovative camerawork of Friedl Behn-Grund, which manipulates light and shadow to create a nightmarish atmosphere of fear and premonition.

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