Purportedly the earliest still-existing werewolf movie, 1925's WOLF BLOOD (aka WOLFBLOOD: A TALE OF THE FOREST) is really only a "werewolf movie" in the scare-quotes sense. In Canada, small-timey family-owned Ford Logging Company is in hot competition with behemoth Consolidated Lumber Company. Ford is managed by Dick Bannister (George Chesebro), who more than compensates for the tame makeup in the last silent film I watched.
Drag queen Bannister's bete noire is Consolidated's Jules Deveroux, played with Snidely Whiplash aplomb by Roy Watson. Because corporations were much simpler and nicer back then, Deveroux gets a leg up on the Ford workers by SHOOTING THEM IN THE LEGS AND ARMS. Incredibly, the loggers seem to take this in stride, so long as Dick allows them to sip rotgut whiskey purchased from Jacques Lebec, the local "renegade half-breed" and bootlegger.
Bannister tries to patch his workers' bullet wounds with first-aid techniques, but eventually calls on the mysterious owner of the Ford Logging Company to send a surgeon to the camp. The owner sends a surgeon, all right—HER BOYFRIEND.
The owner is a woman! Now the movie can be about a love triangle as well as fascinating business practices of the logging industry! If you are saying, "Where's the werewolf?" right now, please be assured that I was saying the same thing for 3/4 of this film. Thankfully, there's a wolf blood transfusion which leads right...not really into werewolf action, more like hallucinations of wolves. And it only lasts 15 minutes. WOLF BLOOD is about 1/4 wolf blood-related scenes, 3/4 poorly-acted forest romance and dancing to "old king jazz".
The acting is pretty objectionable at times, but the music is the real terror here. Especially at first, when we're subjected to the swinginest bloop-boop-a-dip-dip jazz noise that has ever challenged the world. Thankfully, WOLF BLOOD contents itself with boring generic orchestral stuff as time goes on. I am bitching a lot, but there are some good things about this film...
Some of the cinematography and staging of scenes is inventive, like the above, in which our heroes are apparently floating in front of a moving train (caboose is in the back, they're standing on a platform for felled logs; PS there's no such as heaven). Some of the comedy works—in 1925, you could still have a comedic alcoholic and the comedic alcoholic here brings some hilarious complainy lines about wives and how they expect to eat every day. The comedy that doesn't work is naturally quite agonizing, though, like every "whimsical" line out of Dick's mouth. Aand I like the idea of lycanthropy being a psychological condition. No one spouts fangs and fur here, but the idea of someone behaving badly after being convinced they're a wolf or a mulatto wolf-man is pretty nifty. Overall, WOLF BLOOD isn't great, but I didn't rage and seethe while watching it. Very much a forefather of the many middle-of-the-road horror movies that aren't heinously terrible, but which are literally nobody's favorite film.
TOP TEN OF THE 1920S
1. The Unknown
2. The Cat and the Canary
3. Wolf Blood