August 9, 1959 (U.S.)
Crane Wilbur, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Avery Hopwood
Vincent Price as Dr. Malcolm Wells
Agnes Moorhead as Cornelia van Gorder
Gavin Gordon as Lt. Andy Anderson
John Sutton as Warner, the Chauffeur
Lenita Lane as Lizzie Allen
Elaine Edwards as Dale Bailey
Darla Hood as Judy Hollander
There are good things and bad things about Public Domain horror. The good, of course, is that all you have to do is go to YouTube, find it online, or guy a cheap multi-movie pack to watch some of these classics (Night of the Living Dead is public domain, after all…) The bad thing is that the versions viewed via these mediums are usually pretty stinky. Not always stinky, but chances are if you throw a stone in the universe of easy to find public domain horror movies, you’ll hit a stinker. BHM has reported on and reviewed public domain films remastered and released by Film Chest in the past (see Silent Night, Bloody Night and Roger Corman Classics) and these releases are pretty successful at preventing some of the experience pain from damaging the viewing experinece. The release of The Bat starring horror legend Vincent Price and the unmatched Agnes Moorhead is no exception.
Agnes Moorhead plays author Cornelia van Gorder, a wealthy literary legend who has decided to spend the summer in the rented country home of a country banker John Fleming (Harvey Stephens). van Gorder writes mystery thrillers ala Agatha Christie, so it’s ironic that a murder quickly transpires and several more start happening in and around the house. Can van Gorder’s creative mind see into the intent of ‘The Bat’, the pseudonym of the killer at large, and figure out his next move before she herself becomes his victim?
The story of The Bat is a pretty basic whodunit scenario, with everyone trying to figure out who the killer is as victims drop like flies. All that’s missing is Mr. Green in the Ballroom with the Candlestick like in the board game Clue – The Bat has exactly the same vibe. It’s been said that a weakness of The Bat is that the identity of the actual killer is very obvious from the beginning, but some of us beg to differ. I, for one, was in the dark until moments before the mask was removed.
As is the case with all of these older classic horror films, they are not for everyone. It is likely that those fans who crave high action and gruesome kills will not have much patience for the stylized presentation that is The Bat. Beyond that, The Bat isn’t really scary as much as it’s “charming”… not a word that most think of when trying to decide which horror to watch for the night. 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 on early morning TV (it was old then, by the way… I’m not that old) and could have some retro fascination for those newer fans who want to get a glimpse of Vincent Price in his prime and understand better why he is considered such a legend. Nothing particularly dramatic to see here with The Bat, but damn I love it anyway.