Wolf Blood (1925), dir. Bruce Mitchell and George Chesebro, Ryan Brothers Production/Lee-Bradford Corporation.
While not the first werewolf film (that would be 1913’s The Werewolf), this is the oldest surviving film where the concept of a werewolf is featured. The supernatural had already been featured in other films mentioned, but this was the another first. We open with the wilds of Canada.
Two lumbering camps are feuding. Dick Bannister (George Chesebro), overseer of the Ford Logging Company, is the bitter rival of Jules Deveroux (Ray Watson) of the Consolidated Lumber Company. Things have progressed that Bannister has been forced to build a clinic on the campgrounds to treat the injuries sustained from the fighting. Despairing, Bannister calls the unseen owner and demands action. The owner, Edith Ford (Marguerite Clayton), is put off by the call but leaves with her fiancé Dr. Horton (Ray Hanford) and uncle (Jack Cosgrove) in tow. Bannister is smitten with Edith, but keeps his distance. While confronting Deveroux and his men in the woods, Bannister is badly injured in the resulting fight. Dr. Horton finds him, and while conducting some impromptu surgery in the cabin of local troublemaker Jacques Lebeq (Millburn Morante), Horton is forced to use the blood of Lebeq’s pet wolf in order to save Bannister’s life.
Bannister seems to make a full recovery…although soon thereafter the Consolidated Lumber Company is besieged by wolf attacks, culminating in Deveroux being found in the woods, his throat ripped to shreds. Bannister starts acting strange, with blackouts and fits. Could he be behind the killings?
As far as werewolf films go, this is important, but only from a historical perspective. We spend much of the running time focused on the drama behind two logging camps. Unlike the other films mentioned (and the other yet to come), this film plays is safe and makes the horror more psychological rather than physical. Not an awful film, but even with an hour’s running time it seems to last several.