A mystery writer (Agnes Moorehead, Citizen Kane) rents a mansion in a small town, unaware that there is a killer on the loose. When the bodies start piling up, the writer decides to solve the mystery with the help of a local doctor (Vincent Price, House of Usher) and a police detective (Gavin Gordon, Suspicion).
Reaction & Thoughts:
“It says here that the Bat never leaves no fingerprints.”
Cheap-looking, but kind of fun remake of the 1930 thriller The Bat Whispers (both movies were based on the famous 1920 play by Avery Hopwood and Mary Roberts Rinehart). This newer adaptation of the play was written and directed by Crane Wilbur, who is best known for writing the 1953 horror classic House of Wax.
Writer/director Wilbur made many changes to the plot. For example, the story’s heroine, played by Agnes Moorehead, is now a celebrated best-selling novelist. Wilbur also enlarged the role of the physician, played by Vincent Price, who was a considerably smaller character in the 1930 version. What’s more, there are a couple of new and wicked red-herrings that increase the entertainment value of the movie.
Moorehead and Price benefited greatly from the changes to the plot. These two excellent actors easily dominate the movie with their class and professionalism. The supporting cast is just okay, so it is up to veterans Moorehead and Price to carry the film on their shoulders. Thankfully, they handle the task with intelligence and panache. The fine work by Moorehead and Price smooths over some of the story’s rough edges.
Sadly, The Bat isn’t as innovative as its 1930 counterpart. This is a very low-budget production, so don’t expect any great visuals. That being said, the film can claim one contribution to cinema: although essentially an unpretentious B-movie, The Bat anticipates the popular Italian giallo subgenre.
The film’s combination of slasher and whodunit is a hallmark of the Italian sub-genre. Mario Bava (Blood and Black Lace) is widely recognized as the father of giallo, and I wonder if he got the idea from this movie. Even the costume of the killer — black mask, fedora hat, gloves — is archetypal giallo. Joseph F. Biroc’s (Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte) brooding cinematography makes the connection more plausible.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The Bat has never been taken seriously. The movie was originally shown as a double-feature with Hammer’s The Mummy (1959). I rather enjoyed it. I’m a huge fan of actors Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price, and I was happy to see them work together in a movie. Fans of B-movies might enjoy it. B&W, 80 minutes, Not Rated.