Review by David Paul Hellings
“Fritz Haarmann, aka the Butcher of Hanover and the Vampire of Hanover, was a German serial killer responsible for the murders of two dozen boys and young men during the so-called ‘years of crisis’ between the wars. His case would partly inspire Fritz Lang’s M, and its central character portrayed by Peter Lorre, as well as this forgotten gem from 1973.
Tenderness of the Wolves treats the viewer to a few weeks in the company of a killer. Baby-faced and shaven-headed, in a manner that recalls both M and F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, Haarmann is a fascinating, repulsive figure. Using his status as a police informant to procure his victims, he dismembers their bodies after death and sells the flesh to restaurants, dumping the remainder out of sight. This isn’t an easy film to watch, but it certainly gets under the skin…
Produced by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (who also supplies a shifty cameo), Tenderness of the Wolves provided two of his regular actors with a means of expanding their careers. Ulli Lommel – later responsible for the infamous video nasty The Boogeyman – made his directorial debut, while Kurt Raab wrote the screenplay as well as delivering an astonishing performance as Haarmann”.
– via Arrow Video.
Ulli Lommel’s 1973 classic “Tenderness of the Wolves” arrives on Blu ray with an excellent 2K Restoration performed by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation that presents Lommel’s film in the austere manner in which it was produced, whilst retaining the vivid colours that pierce this sleeper tale of Germany’s most notorious serial killer Fritz Haarmann, the “Vampire of Hanover”.
Produced by Fassbinder and using his regular cast and crew, though written by star Kurt Raab (another Fassbinder regular and former lover) who wanted to make a gay film that was challenging, negative, and provocative, presenting the story of the gay serial killer who preyed on young men in 1920s Germany, the film was shot in a small town just outside of Cologne (as it was one of the few areas not devastated by Allied bombing during World War Two) and the story itself moved to a post War setting of austerity and black markets in which Haarmann thrives in his murders in return for providing the complicit police with information on the underworld.
Director Lommel (who would work with both Fassbinder and Andy Warhol during his early career, before moving to Hollywood and directing numerous exploitation and eventually straight to video horror films) creates here his finest work. It is a dark vision of a killer that murdered and butchered innocent young, homeless men and then (allegedly) gave the meat to various local friends to eat or sell in their restaurants. Haarmann exploited a system and killed up to sixty men before being discovered and executed.
“Tenderness of the Wolves” (also known as “The Tenderness of Wolves”) is driven by a superb performance by the late Kurt Raab that is on a par with that of Peter Lorre in “M”, Fritz Lang’s classic that is also based on the Haarmann case, amongst others. Raab is the shy, yet highly manipulative, killer who strangled and then bit the throats of his victims (“love bites” as he would call them). Reminiscent at times of Nosferatu in a black market setting, Raab’s Haarmann is a pathetic character driven by dark desire.
Historically, it was not the murders that shocked the German public and interested the press, but the homosexual angle to the case (as Homosexuality was illegal in Germany during the 1920s – as it was in most of the world). Kurt Raab’s script approaches a subject area of cruelty in gay relationships that producer Fassbinder, himself, would not engage in cinematically until the following year in his film “Fox and his Friends”. Raab wanted a script that included full male nudity (rare in non-pornographic cinema at the time) and the results are an important contribution, not only to the so-called New German Cinema, but also in the history of gay cinema.
“Tenderness of the Wolves” finally gets the chance to find the wider audience that seemingly eluded it for so long.
“Arrow Video is pleased to announce the release of an almost-forgotten German serial killer drama, based on the true story of Fritz Haarmann aka the Butcher of Hanover and the Vampire of Hanover. Produced by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, directed by Ulli Lommel (The Boogeyman) and featuring a remarkable central performance by Kurt Raab, Tenderness of the Wolves will be released as a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD edition on November 2nd.
Restored by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation, Tenderness of the Wolves is accompanied by a wealth of new special features, each recorded especially for this release. Ulli Lommel contributes a commentary, introduction and lengthy chat about the film’s making. Cinematographer Jürgen Jürges granted an extremely rare interview to fondly recall his superb work. And actor Rainer Will, who plays one of Haarmann’s young victims, remembers his time on set as a 17-year-old.
Also present is genre authority Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA and Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesús Franco, who provides an exhaustive account of Tenderness of the Wolves’ creation and reception. Rounding off the package are a stills gallery containing rare lobby cards, the German theatrical trailer (also presented in high definition) and a booklet containing new writing by Tony Rayns. The package will also contain a reversible sleeve featuring the original poster and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil”.
New high definition digital transfer prepared by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original uncompressed PCM mono 1.0 sound • Newly translated optional English subtitles
Audio commentary by director Ulli Lommel, moderated by Uwe Huber
Introduction by Lommel
The Tender Wolf, a newly-filmed interview with Lommel
Photographing Fritz, a newly-filmed interview with director of photography Jürgen Jürges
Haarmann’s Victim Talks, a newly-filmed interview with actor Rainer Will
An appreciation by Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA and Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesús Franco
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Tony Rayns, editor of the first English-language book on Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
“Tenderness of the Wolves” is now available to buy at:
This review originally appeared on SFFWorld at: