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The Bat (1959).

February 8, 2008

The Scoop:
Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead lead the cast of this charming, if somewhat awkwardly scripted, throwback to the “old dark house” melodramas of the turn of the century.

Moorehead plays popular mystery writer Cornelia van Gorder, who rents an old mansion in which an embezzling local bank president has hidden millions of dollars. A mysterious villain known as The Bat is after the money, as is the creepy town doctor, played by Price. Before a long, a slew of supporting characters find their way to mansion, where the bodies start piling up, with the obligatory twists and red herrings.

The production is well-made, if awfully static, betraying its origins as a 1920 stage play by Avery Hopwood. (It had previously been filmed as “The Bat” in 1926 and “The Bat Whispers” in 1930). Much of the creaky melodrama of the play remains, although it seems odd to see it dressed up in late ’50s production design. The performances are strong, despite the cheesy material, and there is some especially good chemistry between Price and Gavin Gordon, who plays the local police chief. There is even a suprisingly swift and brutal murder to shake things up.

All of this makes “The Bat” a fun way to spend and dark and stormy night.

Best Bit:
The oddly casual way in which the bank president opens the cabin door to discover a forest fire.

Side Note:
The absurdly extraneous character of Judy Hollander is played by Darla Hood — young Darla from “The Little Rascals,” all grown up. This was her final screen role.

Companion Viewing:
“The Bat Whispers” (1930) and “The Cat and the Canary” (1927).


Take a Look:
The trailer:

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