Saturday, November 21, 2015

THE BAT takes us back to the 1950s mystery movie genre--but unfortunately, pretty batly

Well, it has Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead in in leading roles among the ensemble cast, but it also boasts a tale by Mary Roberts Rinehart, a popular mystery writer of the early-to-mid 20th Century, whose work has not stood the test of time. The story, based on a play Rinehart co-wrote in 1920, is by far the weakest and silliest thing in the film, though it gets some competition now and again from the dialog and performances, most of which seem to hover just this side of camp.

Moorehead (shown at extreme right) and Price (near right), both of whom certainly knew how to tease camp into entertaining fun, do their thing here, with Moorehead in particular providing the movie a sense of professionalism that never wavers. The plot somewhat clunkily combines bank fraud and embezelment with a serial killer preying on women (and when necessary, men) in that typical mystery setting of the old, dark house. The identity of the killer, known as The Bat, is supposedly the hook that audiences will bite, but that identity, after awhile, at least, is fairly obvious, despite the scattered red herrings along the way.

Some good fun is also provided by Lenita Lane as Moorhead's maid/cook/companion. (Ms Lane was married to the film's writer/director, Crane Wilbur.) It is also some dumb fun to see what passed for B-movie, would-be mainstream entertainment toward the end of the 50s (this one's from 1959), so if you're inclined, you can obtain The Bat via The Film Detective, running only 80 minutes but still a little long (in the tooth, too). Click here and then here to learn how.

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