Galapagos Affair: 1930s Murder Mystery

DATELINE:  Add a Fake Baroness to a Gilligan’s Island Scenario

 Galapagos Affair

Dora & Dr. Ritter, suspects or victims?

When the film uses the tag: “Darwin meets Hitchcock…,” we are totally hooked instantly. Yes, this is a true 1930s murder mystery that would shock Hercule Poirot and confound Sherlock Holmes.

In 1929, Floreanana, Galapagos, was an uninhabited island where B. Traven, Greta Garbo, and J.D. Salinger would have been happy. A German doctor, Friedrich Ritter and his lover Dore Strauch settled there 60 miles from another human being. This is what Herman Melville called the Enchanted Islands, but where ancient tortoises put a curse on visitors.

Within a few years the island was colonized by a middle-class German family named Wittner—and then a colorful woman who called herself a Baroness Eloise von Wagner with her “two husbands.” She claimed imperiously that she planned to build a hotel on the island for American millionaires—which did not go over well with the other four adult residents. No one owned any of it, but the territorial governor gave the Baroness miles of prime land for her project.

When these people took up life in the Edenic locale, they went slightly mad (or likely were already). This documentary uses extraordinary footage—and the brilliant voice-over of Cate Blanchett—to show how the alleged Baroness chose to become queen of her domain, to the point of killing anyone who trespassed on her personal paradise.

She even made a ridiculous movie on location in 1934, which gives this documentary some wildly odd footage of all involved.

With the unwieldy title of The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, you have a startling and hypnotic documentary about lunacy in the world that Charles Darwin found a pristine lab of genetic development.

Newspaper headlines and docu-footage make this film a marvel of truth and sensational history. Who killed whom?  Everyone has a theory, but the Baroness and one husband disappeared, another husband met a foul end, and Dr. Ritter seems to have been poisoned.

Within a few years the original group was cut down by 2/3 by suspicious deaths. Who done it?  We defy you to figure it out from this marvelous documentary.