Wolf Blood (1925)
Say "silent movies" to anyone under 30 and they are liable to respond "Boring!", but that is because they have never really seen one. Even worse, mention silent scary movies to anyone at all and they will most likely think Phantom of the Opera or The Lost World (both 1925) because those two are the prime examples. Actually, though, there have been scary movies since the very beginning of moving pictures. One of Thomas Edison's earliest silents was The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots (1896) which showed an onscreen decapitation. French stage magician Georges Melies offered The Devil's Manor back in 1896. The first screen version of "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" was filmed in 1910! Literary stalwarts like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde began emerging in 1908, Frankenstein came along for the first time in 1910, and Dracula was a relative late bloomer, not popping up in film form until F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu in 1922.
Werewolves were hardly seen at all in the silent days. There was a two-reeler called The Werewolf made in 1913 which told the story of an Indian woman murdered by a settler who comes back in the form of a wolf to get revenge. Werewolves as we know them did not turn up until 1935 when Universal began the trend with The Werewolf of London. Of course the werewolf movie everyone remembers is The Wolf Man (1941) which firmly established Lon Chaney, Jr. as a terror film star and set the standard for which every other werewolf movie to this day has followed.
However, there is a forgotten werewolf movie made way back in 1925. With the re-emergence of silent films these days and growing audience curiosity about them it is only fair to give this one a look. Film fans, submitted for your approval, Wolf Blood.
Dick Bannister (George Chesebro, who also directed) is boss of a logging camp in Canada. While business is good and the men all like him there are problems from a rival logger a few miles up the river and also with Pierre (Roy Watson) a half-breed moonshiner who is always hanging around selling the loggers his potent homemade hootch. Bannister, meanwhile, finds some men from the rival camp deliberately causing a log jam. In trying to stop them he is stabbed and left in the woods to die. Dr. Horton (Ray Hanford) finds him but cannot get back to the camp in time to save him. Stopping at a cabin which belongs to Pierre, Horton asks if the man will give blood to save his life. "I no geev my blood to save heem," the renegade declares. "I got a she wolf tied up out back. You give him her blood if she don' mind!" Horton remembers a medical book that says it IS possible to give a human being animal blood (I'd sure like to know who wrote THAT book!) and does a transfusion.
In the days that follow Bannister recovers but is haunted by strange dreams. In a memorable dream sequence he sees transparent ghost wolves running through the forest and runs along with them. When news comes that the owner of the rival camp was found dead, torn apart by a wolf, leave it to troublemaker Pierre to reveal that Bannister was given a transfusion of wolf blood and he may be "le loup garou," the werewolf!
Wolf Blood is a good movie if taken as an adventure and not a scary movie. Don't expect blood or gore or even much in the way of special effects, but it is still very effective in a dramatic sense. The dream scene where Chesebro imagines he is running with a wolfpack is tinted blood red and the sight of wolves sprinting across the forest and then up into the sky is very well done. Forest scenes are tinted a brilliant green and night scenes are a rich blue.
George Chesebro directed and acted in many silent films but he is remembered to-day from being Roy Rogers most durable nemesis in many Republic westerns. He shed his bad guy image once in the 1945 film Trail of Robin Hood where he helps Roy deliver a load of Christmas trees to orphan children.
Wolf Blood is available on video from Grapevine Video in Phoenix, AZ and also from Darker Images Video in Medway, ME. If you banish all thoughts of Lon Chaney from your head before you watch it you just might find yourself having a good time.