Already seen all of Universal's "Wolf Man" movies? Want something more? Well, here's a little piece of werewolf movie history you probably never even knew about.
It's really more of a romance story than a werewolf story, but it's definitely the werewolf aspect that makes it interesting. Two logging companies are rivals with one another, and Dick Bannister, played by George Chesebro, is the head of one of them. When the other company starts shooting and wounding his men, he telephones the city and sends his boss and a surgeon. It just so happens that his boss is a young woman, played by Marguerite Clayton, and she is engaged to a surgeon. Bannister instantly falls in love with her when she arrives.
Later, the rival logging company begins to build a dam across a vital river. When Bannister confronts them, they attack him and leave him for dead ... but he is saved by the surgeon and taken to a nearby cabin. The owner of the cabin refuses to give his blood for a transfusion to save Bannister, as they have previously argued about him selling alcohol to the loggers, but suggests that he can use the blood of his she-wolf instead. He does, and Bannister lives.
But when word gets out that he has wolf's blood in his veins, his superstitous employees begin to fear that he is no longer human, but some kind of man-beast. Bannister himself also begins to fear that this is the case, and his fears become deepened when the head of the rival logging company is torn apart by a pack of wolves. He starts to go slowly insane, hallucinating that he is part of a pack of phantom ghost wolves running through the woods nearby ... but when the girl returns his love, he snaps out of it and all is well. Yipee!
"Wolf Blood" is the only time George Chesebro ever directed, but he has acted in over four hundred movies. Ouch! He gives a good silent performance here, and it seems fairly well-directed for it's time. The acting is pretty much what you expect from this period of film history -- melodramatic and stagey, with every movement and facial expression emphasised. It has it's dull moments, but the last ten minutes or so are particularly memorable.
While it's certainly not a classic, this is a fairly interesting and entertaining silent movie, and noteable as George Chesebro's single directorial project.
The first indication of lycanthropy here comes during the blood transfusion scene, where the surgeon remembers a medical text he read on the subject of giving animal blood to humans, which theorises that the person who recieves the blood might "partake of the nature of the animal who's blood is used." While this isn't something you'd expect to find in any medical book, it's an interesting idea of how a person can become a werewolf, and certainly makes a change from the usual "bitten by a wolf" scenario. But the surgeon himself doesn't actually belief it. He pretends to, though, in order to discourage his fiance from marrying Bannister, and the loggers certainly seem to believe it, which leads to Bannister becoming a social outcast.
Once Bannister himself becomes convinced, he's more than a little upset. "Why did you do this thing to me?" he exclaims. "You have turned me into a thing that is neither man nor beast!" Of course, the woman still claims to love him anyway, whether he's "man or beast", but he senses that she is still afraid of him and becomes depressed, taking up solitary refuge in a cabin.
It is around here when he starts wondering whether or not he is a "Loup Garou" (see second photo down), then his rival is found killed by wolves and that's when things start to get really interesting. Bannister hallucinates images of a pack of phantom wolves running through the woods (see bottom two photos), and of himself killing his rival. Later, he flees into the woods in pursuit of these figments, and there are some great shots of him pursuing the ghost wolves through the trees. The pack of ghost wolves run off the edge of "Wolf's head" cliff, and up into the sky. He is about to follow them off the edge and fall to his death, when he is stopped by his true love. Aww.