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The Independent Critic

Kurt Raab, Jeff Roden, Margit Christensen, Ingrid Craven, Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Ulli Lommel
Kurt Raab
82 Mins. (plus extras)
Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

 "Tenderness of the Wolves" Arrives on Blu-ray with Arrow Video 
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Based upon the real life case of Fritz Harrmann, aka the Werewolf of Hanover, Ulli Lommel's 1973 film Tenderness of the Wolves is the latest indie cinematic gem to get the Arrow Video treatment with this high-definition Blu-ray and DVD release. The film was written by and stars Kurt Raab as Harrmann, a gay child molestor with a sideline of vampirism who was convicted in 1924 of two dozen murders yet believed to have committed possibly 10-15 more.

Lommel, who would eventually give us the horror classic The Boogeyman, has crafted with this film a flawed yet largely effective melodrama that, at times, looks and feels like a grimier and grittier cousin to American Psycho. Raab's script adds a few flourishes to the story, an example being that in the film Harrmann dismembers his victims and sells the flesh to restaurants, yet he maintains a consistent tone throughout the film's dialogue.

The film has been, at times, compared to Fritz Lang's M, a film in which Peter Lorre portrayed Peter Kurten, also known as the Vampire of Duesseldorf. Indeed, there are a number of similarities between the two films far beyond the actual subject matter.  (NOTE: There are some who also contend the film is actually about Kurten).

While it may seem odd to compare the film to American Psycho, there's something mesmerizing about Lommel's almost hands-off approach to portraying Harrmann and those he encounters and those he calls friends. Tenderness of the Wolves isn't really embracing or rejecting of Harrmann, but it simply follows him over a period of several weeks.

The film is produced by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who also appears in the film as Wittkowski. As an economic choice, the film is set in the period just after World War II rather than the actual period of time in which it all occurred. For those who don't know the actual facts, the time change is pretty much irrelevant.

Raab's performance as Harrmann is haunting and mesmerizing, though it also has some darkly comical edges to it. Jurgen Jorges' lensing is grim and dim in settings that are grim and dim, while Peer Raben's original music amps up the film's melodramatic tones.

As seems to always be the case, Arrow Video has greatly enhanced the experience of watching Tenderness of the Wolves with a wealth of extras including a newly filmed Lommel interview and audio commentary that stimulates both intellectually and emotionally. While most would regard Tenderness of the Wolves as a lesser Lommel production, as presented by Arrow it remains a production deserving to be seen by a wider audience.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic

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