Director: Crane Wilbur.
Based on: The Circular Staircase (1908) novel by Mary Roberts Rinehart and The Bat (1920) play by the same author
Starring: Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead. USA. 1h 20m
A crazy Murder She Wrote style story with an intricate and convoluted plot that just seems to drag on and on.. The Bat does show how influential Vincent Price can be without really have a LOT of screen time.
Cornelia Van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead) is a crime writer who lives in a town being plagued by a sinister character called the Bat who kills women by night, by ripping out their throats with steel claws. Meanwhile a local doctor (Vincent Price) and banker render a plot to steal some bonds but things don’t quite go to plan and the doctor kills his old friend with the belief that he knows where the money is hidden. While the crime writer and her trusty sidekick/maid are going to bed the Bat attempts a breakin and a night of mystery ensues.
It’s always crazy fun watching a caper of this type from back in the 1950’s where a sense of horror and adventure was totally different. While this movie is a whodunit it’s hard to call it a thriller or horror as such only because by today’s standards it’s so tame. But in essence it’s a modern day Clue (1985), a mystery with a touch of comedy.
Obviously adapted from a play, it has a similar setup and design. Lots of room by room investigations and mostly based within the home of the Ms Van Gorder. The shenanigans are whimsical more than terror filled, but a few scenes do leap out as being slightly disturbing, the Bat wears gloves with metal talons which have a Freddy Kruger look to them and do have a creepy feel in the scenes where he’s breaking and entering, and there is a lot of use of silhouettes and long shadows which in black and white always work so well to produce a psychotropic and stark effect. The bats identity is kept secret until the very end but on a second watch you’ll be able to follow the clues, I’m never the best person to work out the murderer, honestly this mysteries just do my head in but this has enough entertainment, mostly off the back of Price to keep the viewer entertained even if they loose track on the mystery.
Agnes, yep the mother in law from Bewitches is okay as the lead but is often out acted, the story seems to go on longer than it needs to, towards the end but it does offer the opportunity to kill a few more suspected killers, which got me re thinking but I was kinda “done” with the movie by then, for a 50’s mystery it’s okay, not film noir and not gripped by violence but there is a genuine scooby do o mystery here that you won’t see coming. This film is now in the public domain so it’s highly accessible and one for the collection of any Vincent Price Fan, it certainly does have some charm and an strange message at the finale.
R – Clue (1985)
L – One House, a list of selected films based in one location.
A – Home Sweet Home – can your home be the setting for an entire movie and how does this thrill us.
5S – Vincent Price
the film is now in the public domain so here is the full legal film..