01st Nov2015

‘Tenderness of the Wolves’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Kurt Raab, Jeff Roden, Margit Carstensen, Ingrid Caven, Wolfgang Schenck, Brigitte Mira, Rainer Hauer, Barbara Bertram, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Heinrich Giskes, Friedrich Karl Praetorius | Written by Kurt Raab | Directed by Uli Lommel


Normally films about serial killers focus on the creation of a monster, often focusing on the hero hunting them down and stopping them. What if the serial killer is somebody we become sympathetic to? That is the focus of Tenderness of the Wolves, aka Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe, the latest film to get the Arrow Video Blu-ray treatment…

Tenderness of the Wolves is based on the real life story of Fritz Haarmann a known thief and known gay man, at a time when it was illegal to be in Germany. Given a special license by the police to act for them as an informer, his illegal actions were often ignored. When too many young men were going missing though and most were last seen with him, it was only a matter of time before action had to be taken.

Being interested in the history of serial killers I’d read about Fritz Haarmann with interest, as one of the first German serial killers and one of the true “monsters”. With names such as Butcher of Hanover, Vampire of Hanover and the Wolf Man he was notorious for enticing young men to his home, then killing them by biting into their throat. The real life serial killer isn’t really a person who could be seen as redeemable in any way.

The version we see in Tenderness of the Wolves though is a fictional character based on him played by Kurt Raab who also worked as writer for the film. Seeing the events from his side, the fact that he is gay really isn’t an issue (though illegal at the time), and actually shows him to be an affectionate person, we don’t actually see him perform any murders for the first half of the film. When he finally does attack though the effect is very shocking, because we’ve started to relate to Haarmann as a human being and sympathise with him. Even after we fully realise the monster he is, it is hard to truly hate him.

While this makes us complicit to a point as we watch him continue with his murders, director Ulli Lommel make it very clear that the people around Haarmann are just as guilty as we are. While they realise there is something not right, they let it continue because they get something out of it themselves. It’s interesting to listen to the commentary with Lommel comparing this complicity to how the world acted in the build up to World War 2 both in Germany and in other countries.

While Tenderness of the Wolves is fairly tame in terms of the gore on show, it is the psychological impact that is impressive. If you start watching the movie realising who Haarman is and the monster he is based on you are fairly clued into what he did. If not though, you can go through most of the film not even realising that this man was having relationships with these young men then carving them up and feeding them to his friends.

Arrow Video have included plenty of special features on the release, including a commentary track with the director Ulli Lommel which is very interesting for fans of the film. With interviews not only with the director but also other people who worked on the film, and an appreciation by Stephen Thrower you get an insight not only into the making of the movie but also the influence by Rainer Werner Fassbinder who not only produced but starred in the film.

Tenderness of the Wolves is a very intriguing film that holds up a mirror to the audience and society itself. Creating the scary prospect that serial killers aren’t the “monsters” we often picture them it definitely raises a few thoughts in your head. With an unforgettable performance by Kurt Raab, Tenderness of the Wolves is well worth a watch for those who want a hauntingly chilling experience.

***** 5/5

Tenderness of the Wolves is available on dual format Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from November 2nd, courtesy of Arrow Video.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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