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Anchor Bay presents
Tenderness Of The Wolves (1973)

"I will gladly give my death and blood as reparation into the arms of God and Justice."
- Fritz Haarman

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: June 19, 2000

Stars: Kurt Raab, Jeff Rodin
Other Stars: Margit Carstensen, Wolfgang Schenk, Rainer Hauer, Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
Director: Ulli Lommel

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic violence, sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:26m:00s
Release Date: August 24, 1999
UPC: 013023204393
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

In 1924, serial killer Fritz Haarman was caught and tried in Hanover, Germany. After a lengthy investigation, he was linked to over 20 murders in the area, all of which were young men. Haarman mostly preyed on the homeless and disenchanted youth. The majority of these victims were "found" by his friend, Hans Grans, a male prostitute. Prior to his execution, Haarman confessed to well over 40 murders, and did so with little remorse. Fritz Haarman killed men by biting into their jugular veins and drinking the blood, which sexually gratified him as well. Living as a black-marketeer in post-WWI Germany, he sold the belongings of his victims and often butchered their bodies which he sold as black-market meat. For all intents and purposes, Haarman had become a self-styled vampire whose obsession with consuming life was beyond understanding. The film Tenderness of the Wolves is a dramatic, fictional glimpse into the life of Haarman shortly before his capture.

Tenderness begins with Fritz Haarman (Kurt Raab) being arrested for yet another crime in his long string of offenses. The police offer Fritz freedom if he agrees to work for them checking travel passes and IDs at a local train station. At the same time, he is expected to occasionally tip off the police about black market activities, through his contacts. Ironically, the position of minor power given to Haarman allows him greater ease and finding and victimizing young boys.

Fritz is actually well liked in the community. All the time he spends with boys is assumed to be time spent helping them find homes or jobs. His friends appreciate his black market contacts since it allows him to share good food and banned products with them. Behind the façade, though, the time he spends with homosexual prostitute Hans Grans is filled with fraud and thievery. Although one of Fritz' neighbors suspects something odd about his lifestyle, she is looked on as nosy. Haarman goes on conducting his private killings and other assorted crimes undisturbed.

Tenderness of the Wolves is not an examination of the facts behind Haarman's real-life rampage, but rather a glimpse into his psyche. The film is not about how he was caught, nor is it really even about the killings themselves. In fact, there is only one on-screen death and hardly any violence at all. Instead, we see a very unsettling story about a seemingly normal citizen who is actually a prowling evil.

Tenderness was made on an incredibly low budget, and is the first film Ulli Lommel would direct. At the time, Lommel and producer Rainer Werner Fassbinder were involved with German stage shows. All of the costuming and props for the film were taken from theatres. Since 1940's era material was all the production crew could get their hands on, the story was moved to post-WWII instead of post-WWI. Kurt Raab had an obsession with the Fritz Haarman story, and seemed a fitting actor to put in the role. Considering the amateurish nature of how Tenderness got off the ground, the end result is extremely impressive. Accurate sets and moody cinematography really set the tone well, and the locations used were, presumably, as accurate as possible to Haarman's real-life surroundings. The stark portrayal of the depressing state Germany was in is amazingly immersive and arguably more accurate than other period films. All of these elements turn Kurt Raab's Fritz Haarman into a believable historical figure, sprung into new life.

Unfortunately, Tenderness seems to move a bit fast which results in some confusion. It seems the film was made with the assumption that viewers would know some of the details behind the reality of it. This is reasonable, since it was made in Germany, but despite even my slight familiarity with the killer's story, I felt lost at certain points. The character of Hans Grans is never properly given time to develop or become fully introduced and the same can be said of almost all of Fritz's close associates. The relatively short running time of 86 minutes means the film doesn't really slow down, but it also accelerates the story too much at certain points. Despite this, Tenderness is still an excellent, stylish drama. The subtle portrayal of the madman within Fritz Haarman is far more effective than a brutal, gore-filled documentary could have ever been.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Despite some negative scratches and spots, the image quality here is superb. Much of the film is very dark and shadowy, but it all comes out with deep blacks and accurate, sharp colors. Presumably a very clean, vault-quality print was used for this DVD and a lot of care was taken in the mastering. There are no compression problems, despite the soft cinematography in many places and there is no aliasing distortion from the 4:3 downconversion. Though the film has English subtitles, the subtitles are not actually a player-based operation, but rather part of the actual image and cannot be turned off. Those of you frustrated with the quality of some subtitles on foreign movies will be pleased to know that these subtitles are yellow with black bordering and are easily visible in all scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Tenderness is presented in Dolby Digital Mono. The sound is very crisp, clear, and very high quality. The film has virtually no action in it that would warrant a 3-channel or Dolby 5.1 mix. There's almost no musical score, and the majority of the film is strictly dialog. While some films would benefit from an upgrade, Mono suits this film just fine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ulli Lommel and William Lustig
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The big extra feature on this disc is the commentary track by director Ulli Lommel and William Lustig (who is uncredited). Lustig is a director in his own right and functions as the "interviewer" on the track, discussing things with Lommel as they watch the film. Lustig is also the current head of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The commentary track is very good and filled with a great deal of insight into how the film was made. There is also a lot of discussion on how controversial the film was and how even today it would probably get a lot of bad press if released as new. Strangely, the commentary stops for long gaps in a few places.

The keepcase insert features a short interview with Ulli Lommel. Interestingly enough, the interview is credited to Stephen Thrower. I can only assume this is the same Stephen Thrower who, for many years, was member of one my favorite experimental music groups, Coil. One of Coil's albums actually contains a song titled Tenderness of Wolves.
The package is finished with the original trailer and some talent bios on Lommel, Rainer Fassbinder, and Kurt Raab.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

If anything could be compared to Tenderness it would be Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, although this movie has nowhere near the level of violence that Henry did. Like in Henry, the viewers are forced to live with the killer. The story is not told from the point of view of the "good guys" trying to stop him, but rather from the inside out. There is no justice and no satisfactory revenge when Fritz is captured because nothing about him makes any sense and his crimes are inconceivably massive. A movie like this is a strange thing in these times. Society today seems intent on trying to blame the ills of the world on convenient packages like movies, video games, or pornography. Tenderness is a reminder, however, that whether we like it or not, some people are just plain evil, even without the benefit of modern technology. Highly reccomended.


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