This film The Bat has flown an interesting winding path in the horror genre, it’s one that took flight as a novel in 1908 called The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart (The Unknown ), which she later developed into a stage play, with Avery Hopwood in 1920 and spawned a few movies, before rising horror icon Vincent Price would forever have his name attached and associated with the production. The first film, was silent and released in 1926, then redone as The Bat Whispers (1930), with RKO pictures purchasing the rights from Mary Pickford, to make the 1959 version. In addition, this movie also inspired comic book genius Stan Lee for the character Batman and the stage version frightened Vincent Price as a child, therefore starring in the film he saw as a way to conqueror those childish moments. It was director Crane Wilbur’s only horror film, though he served as screenwriter and prior this production he understood the genre of horror penning four previous scripts, namely two House of Wax (1953) and The Mad Magician (1954), both for rising star Price. A hurried shooting schedule ran from April 27, 1959 to May 27, 1959, later and was distributed by Allied Artists Pictures sadly this film fell into the public domain, resulting in numerous versions available on the market.
The film, fits into the well-known subgenre in horror of the “old Dark House”, that feature concealed doors, secret passages, Victorian build, people vanishing quickly and dead bodies piling up quickly. While the concept dates back to The Old Dark House (1932) it carries onto present day, featured in classics like The Haunting (1963), Night of the Demons (1988), The Others (2001) and recently Winchester (2018), in fact this category tallies over 190 films, for one to explore. The Bat, uses many of these techniques, though appears for awhile more as murder-mystery meets thriller, than horror, especially how it relates to the core audiences of today. However it did star Price, who was on the threshold of his career exploding in the iconic status of horror, as this film came out later in the same year that featured him in House on Haunted Hill (1959), another old dark house conceptual film; and it became his fourth horror movie of that same year the other two were The Tingler and Return of the Fly.
As stated before it plays more as mystery tale, about a Bat character terrorizing and killing many people, without reason, and making the police look very foolish in their pursuits. The creature or man to substantial facts, has no face, it’s covered in black, but wears black suit, fedora and as razor claws. WAIT – it sounds similar to… Freddy Kreuger, oh no, he doesn’t come on the scene till 1984, but does sound awfully familiar. Another subplot brews in the background a missing stash of cash in bearer bonds that no one seems to exactly where, and the Bat seems determined to locate.
Overall the movie feels a tad restrained, in the hopes of mounting the tension, while Vincent Price, portrays a murderous Dr. Malcom Wells, showcasing the devious grin, sly laugh, steals every scene he’s in on set. However at the center of the story is Cornelia van Gorder (Agnes Moorhead, who portrays her character phenomenally well) as a best-selling mystery writer who has taken residency in the famous home in town, one that the Bat is fondly keen of. The film introduces plenty of red herrings, all in an effort to confuse the audience who the Bat actually is namely Lt. Andy Anderson (Gavin Gordon (Bride of Frankenstein )), and Gorder’s butler Warner (John Sutton (The Invisible Man Returns )) with all performance achieving different pitches and lows, not do to audio issues rather direction, as Price found the storyline muddled and shifting in back and forth between multiple genres adding to some confusion.
A key element concerning the classic black and white films is centered on the aspect lighting, and it didn’t limit itself to just the horror genre, but carried through mysteries and thrillers, especially when the villain entered the setting growing more dramatic, encouraging a more serious moment, thereby alerting the audience. For example, often main lights focused on the centralized actors in the scene, while the edges surrounding them increased in blackness, the evil encircling them, taking voyeuristic position waiting for the right time to pounce. Many horror films of today do this, especially those of possession movies a frightened family in the centered and blackness creeping slowly upon them eating the light hungrily to take their lives and souls. There are few odd choices in abrupt editing, as if unsure how to transition to the next scene, the such instance occurs during the cabin scene, first a calm, then shock, followed by an uh-no moment perhaps the issue with filming without a solution found in post-production. The cinematographer Joseph Biroc (13 Ghosts ) uses the dimmed lighting to generated wonderful shadows from the Bat’s perspective and fulfilling a true gothic feel to the film.
Often horror fans, point to several films as their inspirations, however The Bat is not among them, perhaps due to the lack of gory effects, or that the scares even then didn’t amount to anything, resulting in a now old dusty forgotten public domain whodunit. It likely is a film only sought by aficionados and die-hard fans of Vincent Price, as the staged settings and scenes of the 50s feel dull to a modern audiences, especially with their negative view of black and white film usage. However it’s always an interesting trip down the forgotten path in horror, especial in the 2019, to return 60-years later and discover a lost treasure of Price’s early work.
- S. After seeing ‘The Bat’ 7 out of 8 people will get cold feet tonight!
- When Someone SCREAMS … It Will Be YOU!
- S. After seeing The Bat, 5 out of 6 will pull the covers over their heads!
- When it flies, someone dies!
The Bat (1926)
The Bat Whispers (1930)
IMDb Rating: 6.1/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.0/10
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