Saturday, May 14, 2005

Nice, err, Doggie

There are only a few French things I admit to liking. Jean Reno and Luc Besson are two things from France I like. Another is the non-Besson film, Brotherhood of the Wolf, or Les Pacte de Loupes. The only way to describe this movie is to come right out and say it: it's a kung fu flick with American Indians tracking a giant monster across the French countryside in 1767 aided by Vatican spies investigating an aristocratic conspiracy.

Yes, I'm serious. And if you haven't seen it, but you enjoy action movies, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. You may only recognize two of the actors: Mark Dacascos and Monica Belluci. But the best part of the movie is: it's all based on a true story.

Again, I'm serious.

The incident is known as The Beast of Gevaudan. In the 1760's, in a frontier region between France and Germany called Gevaudan, a mysterious, wolf-like beast began to attack livestock and -- of course, as these things go -- moved on to attacking women and children. The beast, or le bete as "she" became known, terrorized the French countryside with impunity for several years and scored an impressive bodycount. The peasants of the region formed hunting parties on numerous occassions and tried to track down the monster. They even managed to find le bete a couple of times. But they couldn't kill the thing. Eventually the French King sent his own men after the monster. They eventually declared success, and several stories describe the dramatic tale of shooting the monster with blessed ammunition. The body was stuffed and mounted and the King put it on display. However, not everyone was convinced that the monster was truly dead, and in the chaos of the French Revolution, the stuffed body of le bete was lost.

Without the body, no one is really quite sure what the monster actually was. In France, the Beast of Gevaudan is sometimes called "the greatest enigma of history." Outside of France, the tale most frequently appears in compendiums of werewolf lore. Theories abound regarding the origin of the Beast. Perhaps the most credible is that it was an escaped exotic animal -- perhaps a bear, lion, or even hyenea -- from a traveling circus. Most modern reports of animals out-of-place involve escaped exotic pets. But even so, this theory is the most credible because it requires the fewest number of "what if's" but all of them require "waht if's" to be answered.

Strangely enough, the movie's explanation of the origin of le bete is no more farfetched than many of the theories, and less farfetched than most. See it, you'll enjoy the scenery if nothing else.

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