Pulp Appeal: The Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups)

The Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) is a French language ahistorical fantastic retelling of the legend of the Beast of Gévaudan. It is what happens when French moviemakers (director/co-writer Christophe Gans and story creator/co-writer Stéphane Cabel) emulate Chinese wuxia, Gothic Horror, and a touch of the American West as seen through the eyes of Sergio Leone. It’d be reductive to merely call it French wuxia, as I’ve seen it described online, since such description misses the presence of both the spaghetti-Western ironic aesthetic and also the distinctive flair of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto or Matthew Lewis’ The Monk. The convoluted overlapping plot threads of those stalwart Gothic novels is absolutely in play in Brotherhood, as are the shifting allegiances and dramatic irony of Leone’s The Man with No Name trilogy. Also, while there is definitely wire-work involved in the fight sequences, it’s not quite as over-the-top as House of Flying Daggers or the Shaw Brothers’ masterpiece The 36th Chamber of Shaolin[1]. If you haven’t seen this film yet, and your mouth isn’t yet watering over the idea of a fantasy Gothic Horror spaghetti western with kung fu fight sequences, what even are you doing here? Go read some lit magazine or waste your time on tabloids, paparazzi, and reality television. This here is a pulp magazine, and The Brotherhood of the Wolf is pure pulp.

But before we get too much further into the weeds, perhaps a some background for those people who might not have seen this cult-favorite, critic-satisfying, award-winning commercially successful 2001 box office release.

The Beast of Gévaudan is a French legend of a wolf that terrorized the region of Gévaudan, present day Lozère in the southern Occitanie region of France. The area is a mountainous, relatively unpopulated rural county (the French call them departments) far from the main cities of the nation. In the mid 1700s the area was said to be stalked by a creature or creatures responsible for attacking hundreds of people, killing and eating many of them. Since many of the victims had wounds to throats, the beast was considered to be a wolf or wild wolf-hybrid. Much of its legendary status has been incorporated into werewolf lore, including the concept of silver bullets, which were supposedly used to kill the beast. The legend has been referenced in modern urban fantasy fiction like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels and Patricia Brigg’s Alpha and Omega series, as well as the MTV Teen Wolf tv show.

In The Brotherhood of the Wolf, the main character is a knight by the name of Fronsac, who has spent time in America on the frontier. His traveling companion is an Iroquois Indian named Mani, a martial arts master played by Mark Dacascos, probably most well-known in the US as the “Chairman” on Iron Chef America.[2] Fronsac and Mani are enlisted to capture the beast which has been terrorizing the area and quickly find themselves enmeshed in a conspiracy including the French aristocracy, a female Vatican spy, and a cult called the Brotherhood of the Wolf, which is secretly trying to undermine the French king. Suffice to say Fronsac wins the day and takes down both the Brotherhood and the beast itself (I don’t want to spoil the reveal, but I will say it’s definitely pulp in nature. It wouldn’t be at all out of place in an Edgar Rice Burroughs or Robert E. Howard story), but not before suffering his own losses and indignations.

Monica Bellucci on set
Monica Bellucci on set

The film was my introduction to actress Monica Belluci who hit more mainstream fame in the US with the release of The Matrix Reloaded. She later starred as a Bond girl in 2015’s Spectre after becoming a cultural phenomenon because of her excellent acting and, as superficial as it seems, her physical beauty. Yes, I know she was one of Dracula’s wives in Francis Ford Coppola’s film, but to be honest, I really dislike the movie and only watched it through one time. Perhaps it deserves another viewing, particularly as Keanu Reeves has grown on me. At the time I only saw Ted Theodore Logan and Johnny Utah (and I *hate* Point Break). But that’s neither here nor there.

The Brotherhood of the Wolf is almost pure pulp, as it’s a plot driven, genre bending fantasy-horror-wuxia-western action flick that reads almost exactly like the kind of story one might have seen in Weird Tales. I’m not saying you should write the same story for us when we open back up this fall, but I do think it’s the kind of story we would publish.

[1] The inspiration for the Wu-Tang Clan’s foundational album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), perhaps unsurprisingly one of my favorite rap albums of all time, especially “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Bring Da Ruckus.”

[2] I first came across Mark Dacascos in Only the Strong, a martial arts film about an after-school program where the leader teaches kids capoeira, the Angolan-Brazilian fighting style that might simply appear to be an elaborate acrobatic dance. The style has been popularized in the Street Fighter and Tekken games series, too. Dacascos was also in the disastrous Double Dragon, based on the fighting game series. Maybe not as bad as the Super Mario Bros movie, but it’s up there.

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6 Responses to Pulp Appeal: The Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups)

  1. Pingback: Pulp Appeal: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum | Broadswords and Blasters

  2. bubba says:

    Just what exactly do you think is ironic about it? I’m guessing you’re another person who thinks irony means humor or coincidence.


    • Nope. I teach college English and am fully aware of the three major definitions of irony. I meant specifically dramatic irony (we as viewers are aware of situations the characters are not) in one sentence, and in the other, it was about situational irony, in that the situation resolves in the opposite way that a viewer would expect.

      But please, teach me oh master of irony. I am but a Caterpillar basking in your butterfly presence.


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