Tenderness of the Wolves
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.
Arrow releases Ulli Lommel’s film about infamous German serial killer Fritz Haarmann, Tenderness of the Wolves on Blu-ray (in a dual-format edition) in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on a dual-layer disc. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 2K scan of the original camera negative.
Looking to have come from a recent restoration performed by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation (Fassbinder produced the film, though did not direct despite some stylistic similarities and use of the same actors) the transfer looks rather fabulous, similar to the Fassbinder titles Criterion has been releasing lately. The image is very clean, with only the very rare instance of a spec showing up. Film grain is beautifully rendered, looking quite natural and clean, but never heavy, and the level of detail is very high, allowing one to make out just about every pore on the actors’ faces.
The image on the whole is very filmic and I never noticed an instance of noise. Colours look to be nicely saturated despite the gloomy setting of most of the scenes (the set for Haarmann’s apartment may be one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen on screen) and black levels are pretty strong, great since the film was obviously influenced by German Expressionism (M, which gets a few very direct nods being the most obvious one), but there are times where details get lost in the shadows.
Still It’s an impressive looking image in the end, a surprise for the film, which seems to be talked about less and less about through the years. Arrow and the Rainer Werner Fassbinder foundation give the film a lot of love in this aspect.
Lommel has taken a few lessons from Fassbinder (there are times during the film where you feel like you could be watching something by Fassbinder) including in the use of sound. The sound design is fairly limited and rarely showy, and there is a general flatness to everything despite what I can only call a certain degree of punctuation to the dialogue. But the lossless linear PCM 1.0 track manages to deliver clean sounding dialogue, decent music when it appears, and sounds to be free of damage and noise. Not a stand-out track, more because of the sound design, but I didn’t detect any notable issues.
Arrow puts together a rather surprising little special edition for the film, managing to pack on some interesting features, starting with a brief introduction by director Ulli Lommel, simply welcoming you, and followed by an audio commentary featuring the director and overseen by Uwe Huber. The brief intro probably got me off on the wrong foot with Lommel as he comes off a little full of himself, though he won me over a bit more in the track. The film isn’t very long (only 82-minutes) so that of course means the track isn’t very long but it’s packed full of great information about the film and its subject matter. On top of getting into more detail about the actual Fritz Haarmann he gives a fairly thorough background to the film, talks about Fassbinder and his go-to cast and crew (who of course are put to use in this film, Fassbinder even appearing briefly in a cameo), while also talking to a great extent about writer/star Kurt Raab, who was really the key driving force to the production. It covers about the same level of material most director commentaries do but it’s an entertaining one.
Arrow also records a new 25-minute interview with Ulli Lommel for this release. It does sort of summarize a few things in the commentary, like Fassbinder’s and Raab’s involvement, along with some background as to how the project came to be, but it does expand in other areas. He talks a bit more about the film’s lighting, the locations used, and the influences (what is a fairly obvious nod to M actually happened by accident, but Lommel decided to go with it) and his thoughts on how to portray the killer. He also talks a bit more about some of the Fassbinder players, particularly El Hedi ben Salem, sharing an interesting anecdote. Like the commentary it’s an engrossing and informative conversation.
Photographing Fritz is a 24-minute interview with director of photography Jürgen Jürges. Here he of course starts off by explaining how he became involved and gets into a bit of detail what it was like working on a sorta-Fassbinder film, which still came with its fair share of off-camera stories and craziness (including more on Fassbinder and Salem), and working around an almost non-existent budgets. He also talks about the lighting of the film and how it was accomplished, and gets into the film’s obvious influences (M again) and how certain aspects, even Raab’s look, were modeled after it. It nicely rounds out the production, giving another perspective outside of Lommel’s.
Haarmann’s Victim Talks is another new interview, this time with actor Rainer Will (who played one of Haarmann’s victims, as the supplement title suggests), who was 17 at the time of the film’s production. He covers how he came to be involved and his familiarity of the subject matter (he states all children were familiar with the real Haarmann). He shares some stories about Raab and talks a bit about Lommel as a director. He of course also shares stories about Fassbinder, but primarily concentrates on his involvement in the film, which was strictly as producer: he didn’t influence Lommel or play any part in direction. I most liked a little bit close to the end, though, where Will watches a scene from the film featuring him: throughout he mentioned how his long hair had been cut to fit the 40s setting (Will states it as being set in the 20s, though he may be confusing that with the actually Haarmann killings, which were committed around that time) and is surprised to see that his hair is actually still somewhat long, remembering it to be much shorter. We also get a few other reactions to scenes and he also talks about the money he made off of the film (not much). Running 16-minutes it’s probably my favourite interview on the release.
We then get an appreciation by author Stephen Thrower. Running 41-minutes he gets into a great amount of detail about the film, its subject, and the careers of various members of the cast and crew. He opens right off talking about Lommel, from his work with Fassbinder and his first film (Haytabo) to his current work in Hollywood, involving numerous straight-to-video productions. He then focuses on specific details of the film, comparing them to the real-life incidents, even getting into more about the relationship Haarmann had with Grans. There is a certain staleness to the feature, which is essentially a talking heads piece in front of a green screen, but he still manages to keep the feature interesting, particularly when he touches on how the film received limited distribution, particularly in North America, because of the homosexual subject matter, and he’s obviously bothered by the fact there’s no issue releasing a film featuring nude women being torn apart, but you throw in a penis and *whoah* all anarchy breaks out. It’s a very thorough, well-rounded feature, even looking at the film’s look and style. Again, it’s format can be stale (especially at the length) but it’s packed, well researched feature.
The disc then closes with a stills gallery featuring a handful of photos and lobby cards, and then the film’s theatrical trailer. The short booklet that is included then features a nice appreciation of the film by scholar Tony Rayns, who also gives some brief details about the real murders and his own thoughts on why Raab was so passionate about making this film. Arrow also provides a reversible cover featuring the original poster art.
Overall Arrow has put together a rather wonderful collection of features that not only thoroughly cover the film from a number of angles, but also manage to enhance the film a bit.
A wonderfully put together edition by Arrow. It features a sharp transfer and a wonderful set of supplements. It comes with a very high recommendation.