September 8, 2002 -- "Brotherhood of the Wolf" (French title Le Pacte des loups) is coming to DVD on October 1, 2002. I got an advance copy of the DVD of this remarkable movie, an improbable combination of genre films, and it is just as grand and trashy as I remembered it. This is a review of the DVD only. For a review of the film, click on this link to my review.
"Brotherhood of the Wolf" combines a bunch of movie genres in a very unusual way. It is part costume drama, part historical romance, part conspiracy theory, part political thriller, part spy story, part horror, part science fiction and part Hong Kong martial arts film. It is all done in a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster over-the-top style with great-looking camera shots, digital effects, and of course lots of naked women and gore for the kids. This is one wacky film, yet, incredibly, it actually seems to take itself seriously sometimes. This film shows that the French film industry can make films that are just as tasteless and extravagant as anything made in Hollywood.
The DVD has minimal extra features except for the deleted scenes feature, which is excellent. One of the five deleted scenes is the complete version of the opening fight scene in the movie. This scene was cut by David Wu, an editor skilled in the ways of Hong Kong martial arts films. He edited John Woo's "A Better Tomorrow" (Ying huang boon sik) in 1986. Wu is one of four editors who worked on this massive film (2 hours, 24 minutes long). Another is the director, Christophe Gans, who also has a commentary audio track on the deleted scenes portion of the DVD only.
Gans talks a good deal about the deleted portion of the opening fight scene and it was cut from the movie. It took weeks to film the fight scene in very difficult conditions and Wu also does a great job of editing the scene so that the action is fast, but flows fluidly. The reason Gans cut the scene was that it was not how he wanted to portray his main character, Grégoire de Fronsac (played by Samuel Le Bihan) early in the film. He wanted to conceal the fact that Grégoire de Fronsac is an action hero until later in the film, so the scene was cut to show the film's other star, Mani (played by martial arts expert Mark Dacascos) doing all the fighting. The DVD cast notes, by the way, reveal that both of Mark Dacascos' parents are also martial arts experts.
Gans said in his commentary that in the original script, this opening fight scene was to have taken place in Paris, starting near the River Seine, and moving underground to the catacombs under the city. That idea proved too expensive to film, so he improvised a new fight scene in an open field in the rain. In the deleted scenes we see how the fake rain was created. It is a pretty good behind-the-scenes look at how this particular sequence was shot. Another rationale that Gans mentions for cutting this fight scene is that if it ran too long it would bring the film to a halt. It seems to me the scene kick-starts the film. The film is told entirely in flashback by a person who is about to lose his head in the French revolution. It starts out with a guy sitting at his desk, writing his memoirs. That is enough to stop the film right there. Letting the fight scene go on for a few more minutes would not slow down the film at all. There are plenty of slow moments in the film that were not cut in the final print for whatever reason. At any rate, this deleted fight scene is a real keeper.
Other deleted scenes include a scene in which Gans pays homage to one of his favorite films, the nearly-forgotten 1948 film, "Portrait of Jenny" directed by David O. Selznick and starring Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton. The scene takes place, as do many scenes in "Portrait of Jenny" on a frozen lake. Two lovers meet in a dream-like fog. Gans said he thinks "Portrait of Jenny" is "One of the most beautiful films I've seen about passionate love." It is a story of a man played by Cotton, who falls in love with a ghost whom he frequently sees on an ice-covered lake in New York City. Another scene, in which Mani receives information about a murdered woman mystically from a crow, is a reference to "The Crow: Stairway to Heaven" TV show starring Mark Dacascos, who plays Mani in the film. That scene was cut because it links two murders that originally occurred together in the script. Later, the script was changed to separate the time of the two murders, so the crow scene had to be deleted.
Other bonus features on the DVD include production text notes, cast and filmmaker text notes and a theatrical trailer. Aside from the extensive director's commentary on the deleted scenes, there is no commentary track for the film itself. The dual-layer DVD has the original French soundtrack as well as a dubbed English soundtrack, both in Dolby (tm) 5.1 surround sound. English and Spanish subtitles are also available. Since I had already seen the film with English subtitles and the original French language soundtrack, I sampled the dubbed English soundtrack and it seemed to be a good job of dubbing. The image is in anamorphic wide screen format with an aspect ratio of 2.23:1. The colors were rich and the image sharp. I couldn't see any edge correction. This DVD rates a C+.
Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.
Are attacks similar to those that happened in France now happening in the U.S.? Not really, but here are some bogus news reports that seem to indicate similar attacks, courtesy of Electric Artists:Wolf attack one. Wolf attack two. Wolf attack three.