• Brotherhood Of The Wolf (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: July 27th, 2021.
    Director: Christohpe Gans
    Cast: Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassell, Monica Bellucci, Mark Dacascos, Jeremie Renier, Emilie Dequenne
    Year: 2001
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    Brotherhood Of The Wolf – Movie Review:

    If you’re sucker for historical fiction (and I admit that I'm often fascinated with movies that are 'based on real life events') then you’ll want to give his 2001 film from Christophe Gans a shot. Sure, it goes without saying that what happens in Brotherhood Of The Wolf is by all means a fictionalized account, but it won’t stop you from really getting into this movie and you will be more than happy to suspend your disbelief for almost two and a half hours.

    The basic plot, and that's all we are going to reveal here because we don't want to hit anyone over the head with unwanted spoilers, is pretty simple. A mysterious and vicious 'beast' is stalking the French countryside in the late seventeen-hundreds. This monster has claimed more than a few lives, and for obvious reasons, the powers that be want a stop put to the killings.

    Enter Gregoire De Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), a young scientist at the top of his game who King Louis XV figures can figure out a way to stop the beast before any more blood is spilled. Fronsac is accompanied by Mani (Marc Dacascos), a Mohawk Indian who also happens to be trained in the martial arts. Together the two of them are out to stop the monster. When it doesn't happen as quickly as the king had hoped, he sends one of his own lieutenants out to hunt it down and take care of it before anymore civil unrest occurs. The lieutenant quickly goes out, finds a giant wolf, kills it, and claims the job is done and Fronsac and Mani are told to pack up and go home. But these two are just not content with the results of the hunt, and are sure that the wolf killed is not the beast, and that it is, in fact, still loose and hungry for blood.

    The two of them organize one last effort. And that's when things take a turn to weirdsville... French style (with a heavy Hong Kong new wave action movie influence).

    Brotherhood of the Wolf is simply a gorgeous film to look at. The cinematography from Dan Laustsen is top notch, as are the sets and the costumes as well. The direction is solid, the pacing is strong and the film is full of wonderful camera movements and epic, sweeping shots of the French countryside and the architecture surrounding it. The opening murder set piece alone is a remarkable achievement, with the camera swirling around as a poor woman fights a losing battle with not only the terrain, but whatever else may be lurking there and wanting to kill her.

    The fight choreography provided by Phillip Kwok (best known for his work on John Woo's Hardboiled as well as Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky and a ton of Shaw Brothers films) is amazing and Mark Dacascos really shines in his role as Mani. While his character doesn't say much, his movements on screen more than make up for his quiet behavior. The guy should be a bigger action movie icon than he is, he’s got all the right moves and a decent acting style to back that up.

    The rest of performances in the film are also very solid, particularly Samuel La Bihan as Fronsac. He has a regal sense to him that suits the character and he plays his part well. Monica Belluci has a supporting role in the film. She is not only elegant and mysterious in her role as a local prostitute, but beautiful and intriguing as well. Vincent Cassel also shows up here, playing a pompous jerk better than anyone else working these days can.

    While the film does drag in a few spots, there should be more than enough action, horror, sex and intrigue to keep even the most jaded genre veteran involved throughout most of the movie. Regardless if your interest is horror, mystery, action or historical fantasy, there really is something for everyone to get into in Brotherhood of the Wolf as long as you keep an open mind. The film has a distinctly European feel to it and at times gets pretty far away from the mainstream (which, some will agree, is a good thing), but it offers up plenty of style, some decent substance, and a whole lot of entertainment value.

    Note that Shout! Factory offers up the 151-minute unrated director’s cut of the film with this release. The theatrical cut has not been included.

    Brotherhood Of The Wolf – Blu-ray Review:

    Brotherhood Of The Wolf is presented on a 50GB disc with the transfer given a whopping 49Bs of space. Framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and taken from a transfer we can probably assume was provided by Studio Canal (given that their logo precedes the feature and is also included prominently on the packaging), the picture quality on this disc is good, but not reference quality. Shout hasn’t announced this as coming from a new scan or restoration and some of the dimly lit interiors and night time scenes would almost certainly have shown better detail if a new 4k restoration had been provided here but overall the picture quality here is decent. Some scenes can look a little flat while in other they are reproduced nicely and the strong bit rate keeps compression artifacts away. There aren’t any noticeable issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement and if detail isn’t reference quality in every frame of every scene it does offer a substantial upgrade over past DVD editions (without any of the Blu-ray’s released outside of North America available to compare to, we can’t really comment on how the stack up to those releases).

    Audio options are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio tracks in both 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 options in English and 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 in French with optional subtitles provided in English only. First things first, there are some issues with the subtitles where portions of dialogue that could have been translated are not (at one point a small stretch of dialogue is translated as ‘speaking French.’). There are also some errors in the translation here and there. This isn’t a constant throughout the movie and didn’t personally affect my enjoyment of the film or ability to follow the story, but it would have been nice had more attention been paid to detail here. The vast majority of the people picking this up probably won’t speak French, so it’s more than understandable if some take issue with this problem.. Otherwise, the quality of the audio is solid. Not surprisingly, the film plays so much better in its native French (note that the disc defaults to the English 5.1 mix, but that’s obviously easy enough to change), and the French 5.1 mix is a good one. There’s lots of directional activity here, plenty of surround usage. The levels are balanced well and there aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion. The score also sounds excellent, demonstrating nice depth throughout.

    Disc one, is barebones but the second disc in this set contains a host of supplements (all of which appeared on the special edition Canadian DVD release from some years back, so if you own that disc there’s nothing new here) starting with a selection of forty-minutes of deleted scenes in French with English subtitles. The film’s director, Christophe Gans, gives his thoughts on each scene and explains why it was originally intended to be in the film, and in turn, why it was removed. The first scene is an extended version of the fight that is at the beginning of the film, which is Mani taking down some soldiers dressed as peasants. The second scene gives a bit of an explanation as to Mani's relationship with the animals, while the third scene offers some insight into Sardis' character and explains some of the reasons behind his actions in the film. Next is 'Frozen Pond' which shows the meeting of the male and female leads in the film meeting in secret on a frozen lake. This is followed by a scene which follows Fronsac from his laboratory where he's dissecting the wolf, to the Tessier House, which is the town brothel, where he witnesses some bizarre S&M rituals involving a familiar looking character. Finally, there is a montage of smaller clips that were deleted from the film and have been edited together here and play in sequence. The deleted scenes are interspersed with Gans' commentary as well as some behind the scenes footage detailing the making of each scene, and in total they run for roughly forty-minutes. Gans' comments on the scenes are interesting, and it's cool to hear him specifically cite Hammer as an influence.

    Up next is The Guts Of The Beast. This archival piece runs an hour and eighteen minutes and it does a great job of exploring the technical side of things with plenty of cast and crew interviews offering insight into the stunts, the effects work and the set design. Pretty much everyone that you’d want to hear from is included here, as we learn about the genesis of the story, the mythology that the writers were working with, why they chose to incorporate a Native American as a heroic character in the film, details on the complex fight choreography, trying to get the benefits of shooting inside a studio set combined with the 'magic' of shooting outside on location, costuming, trying to incorporate a variety of fighting styles in the action set pieces, dealing with Vincent Cassel's ego, the creature design employed in the film and lots more.

    From there check out The Making Of Brotherhood Of The Wolf. This massive documentary feature clocks in at an hour and eighteen minutes and it covers a lot of ground. This in depth presentation is presented in its original French language with English subtitles and provides all sorts of great information and contains interviews with all of the key people involved in the making of the film. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s quite revealing as it covers the genesis of the story, the characters, Gans’ directing style, staging the action scenes and lots more. If you wanted to know what it was like on set, how lousy the weather was during the shoot and the pressure that Gans was under while making this film, here you go.

    The Legend is a seventeen-minute featurette that is a seventeen-minute talk with Michel Louis, a naturalist and an expert on wolves and the real life events which inspired the film. The interview is also in French, which English subs, and is pretty interesting stuff for those interested in the stranger side of history and the ‘story behind the story.’

    Rounding out the extras on disc two are two different English language theatrical trailers.

    As to the packaging, this release comes with a slipcover and some reversible cover sleeve art, which features the same art as is on the slipcover on one side and the film’s original one sheet art on the reverse.

    Brotherhood Of The Wolf - The Final Word:

    Brotherhood Of The Wolf holds up very well, it’s a tense, dramatic and exciting film with some beautiful art direction and excellent fight chorography made all the better by the contributions of a really solid cast. The subtitle issues are going to, understandably, irk some viewers but the presentation quality is otherwise pretty strong and while there’s no new extra content here, what has been carried over from past editions is excellent.

    Click on the images below for full sized Brotherhood Of The Wolf Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I didn't realize that Kwok did the choreography, which makes perfect sense. The fights are beautifully orchestrated.