Ulli Lommel, a protégé of both Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Andy Warhol, found his greatest success with this strange, low-key account of the life and crimes of serial killer Fritz Haarmann. In recent years Lommel has worked hard to recapture its artistic success with a long string of straight-to-DVD accounts of the Zodiac Killer, the Son of Sam, the Green River Killer, et cetera. These low-budget and often prosaic attempts, needless to say, have not made any significant waves.
Tenderness of the Wolves is a deeply strange film. For a long time, nothing happens. We see Haarmann, as played by screenwriter Kurt Raab, take a number of young men as lovers, and for a long time the film, like Haarmann’s neighbours and acquaintances, will not acknowledge that there’s anything other than a spot of homosexual prowling afoot. But there are hints: as one of his neighbours will later observe, men are seen entering his apartment, but never leaving; he often goes out with large packages, but he never returns with them. Eventually we do see Haarmann at his crime, biting through his victim’s neck in a vampiric combination of erotic tenderness and bloodthirsty frenzy. But very little happens in this film otherwise, and it bears little resemblance to the lurid comic books that make up most of the Arrow Video catalogue. In its slow closing in of the often short-sighted, but dogged, police and its depiction of the murderer as a sad, poetic figure it owes much to Fritz Lang’s M. Indeed, M was inspired by the crimes of Peter Kürten, the Vampire of Düsseldorf; Fritz Haarmann was the Werewolf of Hanover, but Germany never produced a Frankenstein of Frankfurt or a Mummy of Munich.
Audio and Visuals
Unlike many Arrow releases, Tenderness of the Wolves is relatively well-preserved, so no significant hard work had to be put into the restoration presented here. The mostly poorly-lit interiors were an artistic decision, and one that adds to the melancholy and gloom of the picture. Watch it in low lighting for best effect. The only audio track is in German, and it must be said it wasn’t brilliantly recorded, but again there’s little to be done about that.
For the first time in my life I’m about to criticise a presentation decision made by Arrow Video. The comic-book box art, with howling wolves and jagged font, has nothing to do with the slow, haunted film inside, and the original, beautiful poster should have been used instead. But if you do pick this one up then you can reverse the sleeve to see the original art, and you’re just wrong if you don’t. The menu is in the familiar Arrow Video style, with key visuals and score from the film.
The extras presented here are mostly exactly what you’d expect. The director’s commentary is in fact a conversation between Uli Lommel and film journalist Uwe Huber, and it’s a pleasant 80 minutes despite repeating much that is stated elsewhere on the disc. Then there are the interviews: a surprisingly short one (“The Tender Wolf”) with Lommel; a slightly longer one (“Photographing Fritz”) with his wonderfully named DP Jürgen Jürges; and a third interview (“Haarmann’s Victim Talks) with actor Rainer Will, who had a small rôle in the film as one of Haarmann’s many beautiful, doomed lovers. The still gallery and theatrical trailer are obligatory but disposable, and the best feature here is a one-hour-plus “Appreciation” of the film by critic Stephen Thrower.
In the past Mr Rumsey has given Arrow Video much praise for the amount of respect they dedicate to often underwhelming B-movies. Ironically Tenderness of the Wolves, a much better film than most in the catalogue, receives a little less attention than has been afforded other, lesser pictures. But a solid-but-unexceptional treatment from Arrow is still head and shoulders above what you’d get with almost any other imprint, so this is still a highly recommended release.
Arrow Academy released Tenderness of the Wolves on Blu-ray and DVD on 2nd November. You can order it from Arrow themselves, from Amazon and every self-respecting retailer