Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 8th, 2017
“It killed 102 people, brutally mauling its human prey. Its victims are all women and children. The worst attack by an unknown beast in history, and the basis for the legend of the werewolf. Two investigators set out to solve the mystery. Applying modern day forensics, they hunt to uncover the real wolfman.”
With the Universal remake of one of its classic monsters, you can expect to see a lot of related material come out of the woodwork to capitalize on the buzz. Unfortunately, the remake of The Wolf Man pretty much tanked, plagued more by too many internal problems than the full moon. Still, the legends and stories are out there, and it might be fun to check some of this stuff out. There’s likely to be a few interesting tales out there to entertain us and help us to overcome the sting of unmet expectations.
The Real Wolfman:
Let’s check out this documentary based on a 300-year-old killing spree in France, one that gave birth to the mythology of the werewolf.
In 1794 the south of France experienced a horrifying series of brutal deaths. Women and children were attacked and literally torn apart by what appeared to be a large beast of some sort. Victims were often beheaded or disemboweled. The crime scenes were as bloody as anything haunted Hollywood has brought us in the years since. The creature managed to elude capture for months and wasn’t killed until it racked up a toll of over 100 persons. While believed by most to be a beast, the creature never touched the various livestock raised by the numerous farmers in the area. Before the killing spree was done, myths involving human transformation into a wolf, silver bullets, and full moons would evolve and live for the centuries to follow.
Captain George Deucher “Duke” has been a homicide detective for 25 years. He’s a popular consultant with police forces all over the globe and known mostly for his profiling skills. His background leads him to believe that the case was the work of a very human serial killer, who might have used a trained animal for the attacks.
Ken Gerhard is a cryptozoologist and has investigated some of the most famous “creature” sightings in the world. Ken is more willing to accept a mysterious, possibly intelligent animal as the perpetrator. While even Ken isn’t willing to go so far as to accept the work as from a werewolf, he is convinced the case involved some kind of as yet unclassified creature in the wilds of the region.
Together the men visit the crucial locations from the 18th century case. They visit the scene of some of the crimes and talk to locals to get an idea of what the popular beliefs might be today. During their investigation we are treated to rather obviously staged dialog between the two men as they argue their own theories. The footage of their investigation is supplemented by dramatizations of the historic events as well as some of the myths and theories that have been proposed over the years. There are a few instructional pieces which demonstrate, for instance, the skeletal changes that a human body would need to undergo to actually transform into a wolf-like creature.
The men do come up with a theory that both can buy into, and without giving anything away, you can be sure that it is not a werewolf. The documentary ends with a Mythbusters-style demonstration to discover if a marksman of the time could have brought down a beast with a silver bullet as the hero of the tale is said to have done.
The piece doesn’t just examine this case. It mentions an American case involving a similar MO. It was called the Beast of Bray Road and occurred in Wisconsin. The piece also examines the very real phenomenon of lunacy and the spikes in crime and abnormal behavior that emergency workers experience during full moon cycles. It’s a very interesting documentary and well worth a quick look.
Frankenstein: The Real Story:
This disc includes three separate television programs. The first is an episode of Decoding The Past called In Search Of The Real Frankenstein. The 45-minute program looks at the era in which Shelley wrote the story and examines many of the influences of the time. The most important influence has to be the early experiments with electricity and a sideshow performer who animated parts of the body of an executed murderer by applying jolts of electricity to certain nerves. He was able to elicit facial expressions and various body movements.
The real interesting information here is on a castle once inhabited by generations of actual Frankensteins. It is here that a Conrad Dippel was said to have experimented to body parts and many of the characteristics of Dr. Frankenstein and his environs appear to have been inspired when Shelley possibly visited the area in 1814.
The second feature is an episode of In Search Of History. You would think that would have been the first piece, but this one is called simply Frankenstein. Much of the same material is provided here with more emphasis on the life of Mary Shelley. The same stories are also told, including that of Castle Frankenstein and the possibility that she visited the area.
The final piece is a 90-minute feature called: It’s Alive! The True Story Of Frankenstein. It shouldn’t be confused with the Universal documentary with a similar name. This one looks at the story and how it has been presented on screen and on stage. The Universal films are the obvious focus, as is Young Frankenstein with plenty of input from both Gene Wilder and Brooks himself. The feature looks at the commercialization of the character and is all hosted by Roger Moore.
This is a nice collection of albeit older programs. It’s obviously tied to the pending Universal shared-universe films. The stories of a monster and werewolves are certainly entertaining. “Yet there are real stories just as macabre.”