Craig J. Clark — Dec. 24th 2015
This month marks a major milestone for werewolf movie fans since December 16th was the 90th anniversary of the release of the 1925 silent Wolf Blood, which is the earliest extant werewolf-related feature on record. This is, of course, not to say it’s been given the deluxe restoration treatment. To date, its only DVD release has been through the budget label Alpha Video, which included it as a bonus feature on its release of F.W. Murnau’s The Haunted Castle in 2008. Within a year, Kino came to The Haunted Castle’s rescue with a restored authorized edition, but Wolf Blood still languishes and, like a lot of films in the public domain, can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube.
Subtitled “A tale of the forest” (because evidently the filmmakers didn’t want to go for the “tail” pun), Wolf Blood is set deep in the Canadian wilderness where a bitter rivalry between competing logging companies has fatal consequences. Caught up in the conflict is the Ford Logging Company’s new field boss Dick Bannister (George Chesebro, co-director with Bruce Mitchell), who quickly gets fed up with his men getting shot at per the orders of Consolidated Lumber’s underhanded owner Jules Deveroux (Roy Watson), who hires half-breed bootlegger Jacques Lebeq (Milburn Morante) to do the job. Dick calls in the boss, society dame Edith Ford (Marguerite Clayton), and she brings along her fiancé Eugene Horton (Ray Hanford), a doctor whose surgical skills come in handy when Dick has a run-in with Deveroux and requires a blood transfusion.
It’s a while before it comes to that, though, and in fact on the day Edith arrives at the camp Dick is felled by a tree but somehow suffers no ill effects, which already makes him out to be some kind of a superman. Even a superman can be overpowered when outnumbered, though, and after one of Deveroux’s men brains him with a rock he’s left to die in the woods, where he’s menaced by some of the least threatening wolves ever put on the screen. (I suppose they’re distant cousins of the lone hyena masquerading as a werewolf in Murnau’s Nosferatu.) Luckily, Eugene happens upon him and is able to keep him alive with the blood of a she-wolf, but there are complications when Lebeq starts spreading the rumor that he’s now half wolf and the superstitious lumberjacks start to shun him.
Even Eugene follows suit, telling Edith, who has since become smitten with him, that “the blood through his brain will change his whole character — his mentality — his desires — his whole life!” This, coupled with Dick’s vague memories of the “weird tales of the Loup Garou of the Far North,” makes him suspect himself when Deveroux turns up dead one morning with his throat torn out. He then heeds the call of the “phantom pack,” following their photo-negatives to the edge of Wolfs Head Rock, but Edith pulls him back at the last minute. Seems there’s a non-supernatural explanation after all, which is mildly disappointing, but it’s still preferable to, say, She-Wolf of London, the 70th anniversary of which no one will be celebrating next year.