The Real Wolfman is a History Channel produced ninety minute investigation into the beast of Gevaudan, a mysterious creature who terrorized the French countryside and killed more than one hundred people at the end of the eighteenth century. Viewers might be familiar with the story from its dramatic, kung-fu style representation in the film Brotherhood of the Wolf. The Real Wolfman follows a New Jersey cop and a crypto-zoologist as they travel to France to find out what was really behind the killings.
Though several other people are interviewed, the main detectives searching for the Gevaudan beast are George Deucher, a retired policeman and criminal profiler, and Ken Gerhard, a crypto-zoologist. Segments talking about werewolves, the history of the Gevaudan attacks and other related subjects are interspersed with a camera crew following Deucher and Gerhard around France as they investigate. They travel to Gevaudan and speak to many of the locals, including a historian, a wolf expert, a policeman, and even a descendant of Jean Chastel, a local man who apparently killed the beast, finally stopping the attacks.
From the beginning, Deucher prefers the theory that the beast was actually a man, which would explain why it targeted women and children and avoided livestock. Gerhard, however, prefers to think it was some unknown animal, or perhaps an import from some exotic land. The two go about their investigation, putting together clues and making deductions. They run through a number of theories. It might be rabid wolves, or dogs or just a pack of ordinary wolves that developed a taste for human flesh. They put each theory to the test, and find them lacking, for instance hiring a lab to test the bite strength of a dog to see if it could dismember the victims of the Gevaudan attacks.
Then they look more deeply into the story of Jean Chastel, who purportedly made some silver bullets, had them blessed by a priest and then went looking for the beast. Very quickly, he found it and killed it with one shot. Deucher and Gerhard are dubious, and do some investigation, including making some silver bullets of their own and having some professionals do test firings with silver bullets and lead bullets, to compare their accuracy and power.
The pair of investigators eventually come a theory they agree on, and it's plausible enough. However, they seem a bit too sure of themselves, which is a problem with much of the show. It makes broad generalizations and sweeping statements that often have little to back them up. At one point, the narrator says, "This monster outsmarts its hunters with a cunning far beyond any animal known to man." Really? How do they know for sure? Regardless, they do talk to actual experts, and consult a lot of primary sources in their investigation. And, though it tends toward the staged and cheesy at times, The Real Wolfman does manage to hold one's interest and even provide a lot of clarifying information for those who are not familiar with the Gevaudan attacks. It carefully avoids the crazier end of crypto-zoology, and never once utters those noisome phrases "some experts say" or "some have theorized" which plague films of this type, and allow their producers to never mention who these experts are. The reenactments are skillfully presented, and the two investigators are likeable and work well together. This isn't a great effort, but it's pretty good. Recommended.
The video is presented in 1.33:1 standard, and looks good with no issues. The image is clear and bright.
The sound is Dolby digital 2 channel, and also does the job. The dialogue is always clearly audible and no hiss or other problem can be heard. No subtitles are included, but voiceover English translations are provided whenever the investigators are talking to a French speaker. No alternate language track is available.
There are not extras on the disc.
The Real Wolfman is a fairly standard made for television documentary. It has an interesting subject matter that most people know little about, and the two investigators involved are engaging and fun to watch. It avoids the wackier aspects that these kind of films sometimes indulge in. There are no space aliens or demonic influences posited. And they interview actual subject matter experts and cite primary sources. This is a fun way to spend ninety minutes, but nothing too demanding.