A mystery writer (Agnes Moorehead, The Magnificent Ambersons) 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, The Abominable Dr. Phibes) and a police detective (Gavin Gordon, Suspicion).
Reaction & Thoughts:
Silly and dated, but kind of a 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 and director Wilbur made many changes to the plot. Wilbur transformed the story’s heroine, played by Agnes Moorehead, into a best-selling novelist, which gives an extra kick to the meta-ending. He tweaks other characters too. For example, the character of the physician, played by Vincent Price, was beefed up. There are also a few new red-herrings that add fun to the viewing experience.
Moorehead and Price benefited greatly from the changes. These two excellent actors easily dominate the movie with their class and professionalism. The supporting cast is just okay, so it is up to Moorehead (her Murder She Wrote‘s Jessica Fletcher-like writer is a very likable heroine) and Price to carry the film on their shoulders. Thankfully, they handle the task with intelligence and panache. Moorehead and Price help you ignore the clunky narrative, which leaves a lot to be desired — the mystery lacks panache.
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 schlock might enjoy it. B&W, 80 minutes, Not Rated.