Tenderness of the Wolves (18) | Home Ents Review

Tenderness of the Wolves

Dir. Ulli Lommel, West Germany, 1973, in German with subtitles

Cast: Kurt Raab, Jeff Roden, Margit Carstensen, Ingrid Caven

If you like Rainer Werner Fassbinder, you’ll like this. The rather odd offspring of Fassbinder regular Kurt Raab, Tenderness of the Wolves tells the story of paedophile-vampire-serial killer Fritz Haarmann, the real-life, trachea-biting 1920s inspiration for Fritz Lang’s famous crime film, M.

Raab wrote the screenplay and leads as Haarmann. He is very creepy indeed. Fassbinder produced. Ulli Lommel – who went on to make serial-killer related tv films in Hollywood – directs. The film is packed with actors from Fassbinder films and it looks like one of his, to me anyway.

Baby-faced and shaven-headed, crouching over his young victims like Murnau’s Nosferatu and whining like Peter Lorre’s M, Raab’s Haarmann is a fully paid-up member of his community. He helps the police with Hanover’s homeless problem; and he helps the snaggle-toothed local restaurant owner get hold of strange cuts of meat in inflation-cursed times. The neighbours complain about the sawing and chopping he does at night but at least he always has money to pay the rent.

The film oozes that sleazy, deadzone, tacky-coloured world we know and love from Fassbinder films. Filmed quickly and cheaply, this is an exploitation movie with extraordinary pedigree. There’s a traumatised, frozen quality to the acting and the framing; and Raab’s wet and lascivious eyes seem as deep, empty and cold as glacier caves.

There’s quite a lot of young cock on display, which may or may not be a good thing, let alone strictly necessary for the film, but hey, whatever floats your boat (as long as it’s consensual etc).

I’m not sure the film has much to say about the real-life Haarmann’s motives but it certainly makes his life and times look both seedy and desperate. You may feel like washing after viewing but there’s no denying the film’s stealthy impact.

Frankly, I’d watch anything from this era featuring Raab, Carstensen and Caven. Like many of Fassbinder’s actors they appear appealingly needy, damaged and tough – all at the same time.

Special features

  • 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


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Tenderness of the Wolves is out in a dual format edition from Arrow.

Colin Dibben

Author: Colin Dibben

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