Fritz Haarmann was a serial killer from Hanover in Germany who, in the 1920s, brutally killed over a score of young boys and men in sexually motivated attacks. Later, in 1973, Rainer Werner Fassbinder produced a movie, ‘Tenderness of The Wolves’, which attempted to reanimate the story and here it is, over 40 years later, brought back to life by Arrow Video in a digitally restored version on Blu-ray. This is a sad and sick perverted little movie which, at 80 minutes, is mercifully short and, despite the vampire overtures, there is actually nothing that lends itself to the fantasy or horror genre. It is brutally stark and is not in any respect a pleasant movie to watch.
Kurt Raab plays Fritz in what is admittedly a very good performance. The baby face killer is devoid of humanity and, seems to have an inability to distinguish between petty crime and paedophilic murder, making it a difficult movie to put about, especially in the UK. In many respects, it’s a movie which should not really be released and despite people arguing the merits of censorship and artistry, the subject matter is such that it is ultimately distasteful. Whatever one wants to say about art, child rape and murder, while it goes on in society, it should not be and can never be something which can have status as an art form.
The movie itself is a bit of a botched job. When watching it, one seemed to assume that it took place in communist East Germany. However, reference was made to the Ruhr which was in the West and also mentioned was post-war Nazism but the fact that Fritz became an informer for the secret police suggested a Stasi connection, all this while purporting to be from 1925. Why a German producer couldn’t get his own history right remains a mystery but it does convey a sense of amateurism to the movie.
A lot of butchering goes on in Fritz’s upper floor apartment but the local innkeeper doesn’t seem to mind because she likes the supply of good meat which keeps her own family and the customers very happy. It isn’t suggested that she knows the source of the meat but basically she doesn’t care, likewise most of the locals who accept his paedophilic nature. Pretending to be a priest, he steals clothing from people and sells it to a dealer. Later, he even steals from a washing line. The local police chief is kept happy with gifts of food and drink, thinking Fritz is no more than a black marketeer with odd tendencies, allows him to continue on his way as long as he keeps the authorities informed of wrongdoers.
The victims seem to be any young male person down on his luck and in need of some help. Seemingly going to their death in a trance, they end up raped and murdered, butchered and disposed, without too much concern from the locals, all except one nosy woman who becomes suspicious. The number of murders and the increase in suspicion around the neighbourhood alerts the higher up authorities. Eventually, the police are forced into doing something about it. The ending is short and merciful. Thankfully, we are taken away from this unreal scene which doesn’t have a place in history or time.
Sexually explicit scenes of a homosexual and paedophilic nature are abundant in the movie but, even the images where nothing is shown but implied were horrific, such as the young boy maybe about seven or eight years old making his way to Fritz’s apartment only to disappear. His blue hat was later given to other children, a hat that once belonged to ‘a very naughty boy’, even that was used as a bait to entrap more children! Sickening and repulsive are words that come to mind.
On Blu-ray, you will get lots of extra material including commentary, interviews and the usual stuff including trailers and still shots. Quite frankly, after watching the movie there was no real desire to delve into the subject in any greater detail and after a cursory glance at some of this material, it was switched off. Maybe more persistence should have been applied but one reaches the stage where enough is enough. Possibly someone else, someone with more stamina, should have reviewed the Blu-ray!
Had this been a movie about the original serial killer, it may have been more acceptable as a moral and social warning from history but, as such, it was a pastiche, a mish-mash of facts and figures and ultimately something rather abhorrent. Making it devoid of reality through historical inaccuracies, it goes on the verge of becoming a glorification of the killer. None of the characters, apart from a couple, were pleasant to watch and the 80 minutes of the movie became turgid and ultimately revolting. Why should characters be pleasant, someone will ask, because life isn’t like that? Of course, that’s true but, what the hell, we all know these unpleasant things take place. If you want to watch a movie about that aspect of humanity, in stark reality and, at times, graphic reality, as displayed in this movie, then that’s up to you. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend it.
(region B blu-ray: pub: Arrow Video. 2 blu-ray disks 80 minute film with extras. Price: £14.99 (UK). ASIN: B0117WYPTQ)
language: German with English sub-titles
cast: Kurt Raab and Jeff Rodin
check out website: www.arrowfilms.co.uk