Wolf Blood (1925)

Wolf_Blood_(1925)‘Gee! I thought it was the undertaker with his embalming fluid!’

The foreman of a logging company is left for dead in the forest. A transfusion of wolf’s blood keeps him alive but he believes he is turning into one of the pack…

There’s something rotten in the great Canadian wilderness; big business Consolidated Logging are trying to put their rivals out of business and they’ll resort to any lowdown tactics to do it, even murder. Their main target is the Ford Company and its foreman Dick Bannister (George Chesebro). They get his men hooked on poison liquor, shoot at them and cut down nearby trees without due care or attention. Pretty soon, old Cheeseburger has a field hospital full of casualties and writes to the owner, demanding help. But instead of a someone ‘100 years old, probably with the gout’; the head of the business turns out to be a young, vivacious woman who has previously been more interested in ‘old king jazz’ than the great Canadian Redwood.

This independent silent has a claim to be the first werewolf movie ever made, but that’s really pushing it. There are no silver bullets, pentagrams, full moons or wolfbane of course, because all that was invented by Curt Siodmak for Universal’s classic ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941) but there are no transformations either. What we have instead is something a lot closer to the real life malady that probably inspired the legends; someone who believes he has taken on the characteristics and behaviour of a woodland beast due to delusion or injury (citation needed!)

Wolf_Blood_(1925)

‘The Larch! The Pine!
The Giant Redwood tree!
The Sequoia!’

Unfortunately, all the ‘wolf man’ stuff occurs in the final 15 minutes and the journey to get there has been nothing special. Heroine Marguerite Clayton has brought along her stuffy fiancée (who happens to be a doctor!) and it doesn’t take a genius to see what’s going to happen there… yes, scenes of nature’s great beauty inspire old Cheeseburger and the fluffy young Miss and, what with helping injured critters and gifts of woodland pansies, the old Doc’s heading for the big freeze out.

As entertainment, this is only vaguely interesting and not remotely convincing. Characters are delivered in typically broad strokes and the acting is very much in the style of the time. A modern audience will inevitably find it difficult to invest in the drama and, although some compensation comes with the scenery, most of the action takes place in the logging camp. A similar setting can be effective when executed with great design and visual flair, such as in Frank Borzage’s ‘The River’ (1929), but there’s little evidence of that level of talent here. This film is of some historical interest, but nothing else.

Cheeseburger co-directed (with H. Bruce Mitchell) but you are more likely to recognise him from the background of more than a hundred ‘B’ Westerns in which he appeared over the next three decades. He was usually uncredited.

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