‘When it flies… someone dies!’
The Bat is a 1959 American murder mystery film written and directed by playwright Crane Wilbur (screenplay for Mysterious Island; The Mad Magician; House of Wax; storyline for The Amazing Mr. X). The movie stars Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead (Bewitched, Dear Dead Delilah; Frankenstein: The True Story) and Gavin Gordon (Bride of Frankenstein; Mystery of the Wax Museum).
It is the fourth film adaptation of the story, which began as a 1908 novel The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart, which she later adapted (with Avery Hopwood) into the 1920 play The Bat.
In the US, The Bat was distributed by Allied Artists on a double-bill with the British Hammer film The Mummy.
Cornelia Van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead) is a mystery author who lives in a town terrorised by a mysterious murderer known only as “The Bat” who is said to be a man with no face.
The Bat enters Van Gorder’s rented house, The Oaks, and releases a bat, which bites van Gorder’s maid Lizzy (Lenita Lane). With Lizzy in a panic, fearing she may now have contracted “the rabies”, an outbreak of which local papers have reported, Van Gorder calls her doctor, Dr Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price), who is conducting research on bats…
” …the cast virtually drips with greasepaint conjuring up the atmosphere of an intimate stage with a killer lurking just beyond the curtain. Such an approach proved mild in a decade filled with an increasing reliance on rampaging aliens and sinister ghouls, but time has been kind to the film…” Turner Classic Movies
“House of Wax‘s Crane Wilbur, directing his own script, had again chosen to revive a creaky old melodrama which, on this occasion, remained every bit as creaky and melodramatic as the original […] After seven reels of wearisome comings and goings, Wilbur disposes of more to-ings and fro-ings by a last-minute change in construction, switching from real-time to flashback mode…” Denis Meikle, Merchant of Menace: The Life and Films of Vincent Price
“Crane Wilbur’s direction is fairly static, although he does make effective visual use of the deep dark shadows that are part and parcel of these “old dark house” stories. He also gives his cast free rein, allowing Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead to take the performing ball and run away with it. They’re frequently over-the-top and occasionally campy…” All Movie
” …The Bat isn’t really scary as much as it’s “charming” […] The Bat is a great time waster, a film that will put a smile on the face of those who may remember it from days gone by…” Horrorfreak News
” …Crane Wilbur, the scenarist-director, keeps the plot perking and the bodies falling (seven), with some amusing touches along the way. Finally, and fortunately, there is Agnes Moorehead’s good, snappy performance.” Howard Thompson, The New York Times, December 17, 1958
“Worth watching for fans of Morehead, Price, or The Bat Whispers. But I felt the whole thing should have been freakier and jazzier, and not so stately and professional.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
Lizzie Allen: “All the victims died the same way – like their throats had been ripped open by steel claws.”
Cornelia van Gorder: “That, I suppose is the cat dropping its dentures!”
Cast and characters:
Vincent Price … Doctor Malcolm Wells
Agnes Moorehead … Cornelia van Gorder
Gavin Gordon … Lt. Andy Anderson
John Sutton … Warner – The Chauffeur
Lenita Lane … Lizzie Allen
Elaine Edwards … Dale Bailey
Darla Hood … Judy Hollander
John Bryant … Mark Fleming
Harvey Stephens … John Fleming
Mike Steele … Victor Bailey
Riza Royce … Jane Patterson
Robert B. Williams … Detective Davenport
William Janssen … Clerk (uncredited)
Virginia Linden … Customer (uncredited)
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1