History Channel // 2009 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // March 29th, 2010
The dark side of human nature and the wolfman within us all.
Knowing very little about History Channel's The Real Wolfman going into the review, I was able to approach it with little bias and optimistic expectations for a supernatural tale with some possible real world connections. It took almost no time for the story to become incredibly familiar and I quickly realized that the 2001 French film Brotherhood of the Wolf deals with the same core content.
For three years between 1764 and 1767, a mysterious beast terrorized the French province of Gévaudan, preying primarily on women and children while men and livestock seemed to escape any serious harm. It has been estimated that there were 210 attacks, resulting in 113 deaths and 49 injuries and 98 of the victims killed were partly eaten. Eyewitness accounts reported the beast as having a long tail, large jaws and teeth. King Louis XV became so concerned with the apparent killing spree that he offered a bounty of 300 livres (pounds of silver) to a famous hunter and a further 300 to be divided amongst the rest of his hunting party. The hunters managed to kill a large beast, putting an end to the killing, but only for a short time.
The History Channel turns its attention and resources on the 18th century mystery of the Beast of Gévaudan, sending renowned cryptozoologist Ken Gerhardt and veteran criminal profiler George Deuchar on the hunt for new clues and information. For some reason, the producers decided to take a reality TV approach to some of the content, but from on-screen titles to the contrived and painfully scripted tension between Gerhardt and Deuchar, this was a bad idea that should have been left in early production meetings.
Fortunately, the approach fades into the background about a third of the way into the program, getting to the real meat of the mystery and history. While they come from very different worlds and areas of specialty, Gerhardt and Dechar wind up making a pretty decent investigative team, challenging each other's theories, questioning official and accepted accounts and working together to develop what amounts to a pretty solid and surprising conclusion that I won't spoil here.
Where The Real Wolfman stands out is when the historical accounts, re-enactments and facts take center stage. This is a very strange story that takes many surprising twists and turns, with conspiracies and cover-ups aplenty. The feature also delivers information well beyond the central story, addressing physical conditions and other factors that, together with the Gévaudan legend, came together to form the concept of the werewolf that helped make Universal rich.
The audio and video presentation are relatively average, doing their job to deliver the content, but not standing out in any way. Not that I'd know what to add as supplementary content on this release if I had the opportunity, but there are no extra features of any kind.
The Real Wolfman is guilty of providing some delightfully wolfish content, wrapped in somewhat contrived and sheepish clothing.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated