Thanks to the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation and the subsequent release on Blu-ray/DVD by Arrow Films in November 2015 we know have a chance to view a beautifully restored version the 1973 RWF produced Tenderness of the Wolves. The movie is based on the true story of Friedrich Haarmann a German serial killer who operated over a seven-year period from 1918 to1924 following World War 1. He was eventually found guilty of the murder of 24 young men but he has alleged that his tally could have been between 50 and 70 men and boys. Following a sexual assault his preferred method of killing was to bite into the neck or Adams apple of his victims. It is said that he disposed of the bodies by extensive mutilation and dismemberment and although never proven in court, sold the minced remains as meat- for this reason he became known as the Butcher or the Vampire of Hanover.
Although directed by Ulli Lommel, a German film director and actor known for his many collaboration’s with Fassbinder as well as working along side Andy Warhol as a creative associate at The Factory, Warhol’s New York City studio, it is unmistakably a Rainer Werner Fassbinder movie. Not only produced and edited by the great man but it also features RWP in a wee cameo as the real life pimp Wittowski and many of his regular company of actors were used in the movie, including Margit Carstensen, Ingrid Caven, El Hedi ben Salem and Brigitte Mira. But the film belongs to Kurt Raab who wrote the screenplay, based closely on the original murder trials transcripts and is totally convincing as the gay serial killer Fritz Haarmann. Raab’s association with RWF goes back to 1967 when Fassbinder took over the Action Theatre in Munich and led to him being involved with 31 of the director’s films.
Within the tight budgetary controls Lommel and Raab had two months to shoot the film and for the same reason set the films timespan just after the WW2 when the period was cheaper to replicate providing a late 1940’s setting. The movie was shot almost entirely in a small historic town just outside Cologne that remained virtually undamaged after the war.
Raab’s narrative does not hide anything allowing the viewer a complete picture of what went on during the seven-year period in which Haarmann’s murderous and sexually spree wrought havoc amongst the gay community around Hanover. Picking up the young men around the railway station, taking them back to his flat and witnessing the rape and bloody murder. We also observe the intense relationship between himself and his lover Grans (Jeff Roden) who its obvious knew exactly what was going on. The movie makes a show of Haarmann bringing gifts of fresh meat to his friends and acquaintances although we are never told where the meat actually comes from. A film that has full male nudity and demonstrates murderous sexual passion, a film that is both repulsive and fascinating, which probably means its not a film for the small minded, but it is a film not to be missed for those of us that love the Rainer Werner Fassbinder brand of New German Cinema.
|The great man himself|