Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday Terrors - The Bat (1959)

Ok, kiddies, let's just be honest right from the start: just as "everything goes better with Coke", every movie is made better with Vincent Price. It's simply a fact.

Understand, I'm not wanting to take anything at all from the other star of the show, Agnes Moorehead, who plays mystery writer Cornelia Van Gorder, but it is Price, as the seemingly mildmannered but actually cold-blooded Dr. Malcolm Wells who keeps this quaint little mystery chugging along.

Mary Roberts Rinehart, the mystery author who is credited with inspiring the phrase "The butler did it", along with Avery Hopwood penned the Broadway play the film is based on in 1920. This was actually the third filmed version of the story, the first appearing in 1926, and a second, titled The Bat Whispers in 1930.

The play centers around Morehead's Van Gorder, who has rented a house called "The Oaks" for the summer. A celebrated author of mysteries, much like Rinehart herself, Miss Van Gorder is accompanied by her secretary Lizzie Allen. Soon after their arrival, strange things begin happening not only in the house itself, but in the town. The servants begin complaining of hearing strange noises, and one of them even complains of seeing a faceless man haunting the steps of the house. Meanwhile, over a million dollars of securities have been found missing from the local bank vault.

We then cut to a small cabin in the forest where bank president John Fleming is hunting with Dr. Wells. Fleming tells Wells not only that he is the one who stole the money but how he plans to get aaway with the theft. He also gives Wells a clue as to where the money is hidden. Somewhere in The Oaks is a hidden room with the cash. Upon hearing all of this, Wells decides, rather than to split the money as Fleming is offering, to shoot the man in cold blood and take the entire payday for himself.

When Lizzie is bitten by an actual bat and fears that she may have gotten "the rabies", Dr. Wells has the perfect opportunity to insinuate himself at The Oaks and have a look around for the stolen money. Meanwhile, however, another mysterious figure, that of the murderer the police are calling "The Bat" because of his habit of clawing out young girls' throats with his razor-sharp talons, is also seen lurking around the forboding mansion. All of these strands finally come together and in the end The Bat is unmasked to be... well, that would be telling, now wouldn't it?

The Bat is definitely an entertaining film, which is enlivened by the presence of Price and Morehead. Both of them were in their prime at this point, with Price definitely playing off of his suave persona in order to disarm (both literally and figuratively) the other characters in the film.

Let's take a look at the trailer (which even features Price as host and narrator):

And here's the Skinny:
Title: The Bat
Release Date: 1959
Running Time: 82min
Black and White
Starring: Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead
Director: Crane Wilbur
Producer: C.J. Tevlin
Distributed by: Allied Artists

The Bat is available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available on DVD from Amazon: The Bat.
Netflix also has the movie available for rental as part of a double feature: The Bat / House on Haunted Hill.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


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