“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 wolf man.”
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. I haven’t seen the new Wolf Man film yet, and not likely to catch it on the big screen at this point. So, my expectations have yet to be shattered. I’m sure to catch the results on Blu-ray before too long, and if Universal cooperates, I might even get to share those views with you, my gentle reader. Until that time, 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 torn literally 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 crypto zoologist 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.
The Real Wolf Man is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, but is unfortunately, non-anamorphic. This is all documentary footage, and you should adjust your image expectations accordingly. It works for what it is, but it is considerably inconsistent.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is dialog short and simple.
The History Channel pulled out all of the stops for this one. As much as it was timed to the movie, it doesn’t come across strictly as a quick way to exploit the theme, at least not as much as many of these things tend to be. The documentary brings together two investigators with very different, but appropriate backgrounds to follow the path of the 300 year old mystery. And if you’re a fan of any of werewolf films out there, “This is where it all began”.