Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead Star in this Tame 50’s Murder Mystery
A serial killer known as “The Bat” terrorizes an elderly mystery writer as he looks for a million dollars stashed away in the woman’s large house. The Bat was produced by Allied Artists in 1959 starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead above the marquee. A decent mystery thriller laden with red herrings and a campy style, the story is based off the novel by Mary Roberts Reinhart and its latter stage adaptations. Prolific director Crane Wilbur delivers a satisfying, if somewhat stilted, thriller that wastes Vincent Price’s talents.
If you ever wondered where Scooby-Doo came up with its basic formula of haunted mansions, villains revealing their identity after wearing disguises, and the protagonists running around for their lives while being chased, look no further than this film. The quaint 1950s thriller has all the elements that would later get spoofed so frequently in Scooby-Doo.
A killer known as the Bat goes around completely masked and wearing gloves with steel claws, terrorizing local women in their homes. Famous mystery novelist Cornelia Van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead) is renting out “The Oaks,” a spooky mansion owned by John Fleming. She lives there alone with her trusted friend and maid, Lizzy Allen.
Fleming reveals to Dr. Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price) that he’s stolen one million dollars from the bank and Wells believes he’s hidden it in an old estate currently rented out to Cornelia. Dr. Wells wants the money for himself so he quickly dispatches Fleming from the equation. What ensues is an old-fashioned mystery play with Dr. Wells attempting to discover the money by becoming friendly with Cornelia as the bodies pile up around them.
The Bat feels like an older stage mystery…
The Bat feels like an older stage mystery…
The Bat continues to prove himself a threat by sneaking into the mansion, looking for the one million dollars at the same time. His identity is never quite clear until the end as a number of plausible suspects are involved, from Dr. Wells to Cornelia’s new butler.
Years before the slasher genre would come into its own, The Bat feels like an older stage mystery since it had been a successful play for many years. What was once terrifying comes off as dated, including some attempts at humor from Agnes Moorehead. Vincent Price is fine in his role but this is several years before he would fully embrace the theatrical, over-the-top delivery that made his horror films in the 1960s such memorable movies. This is a decent, somewhat hokey mystery thriller from the 1950s.
New Blu-ray label The Film Detective presents The Bat on Blu-ray for the first time. Having slipped into the public domain, it saw numerous DVDs of varying quality from horrendous to tolerable. The 1959 Vincent Price movie receives a new film transfer exclusive to this BD from 35mm archival elements in a solid 1.85:1 presentation. The 80-minute movie comes in decent 1080P resolution with a strong AVC video encode, averaging 32.44 Mbps. People will want to know it is delivered on a BD-R.
It’s a serviceable film transfer from secondary elements in mostly clean shape. It lacks the three-dimensional pop seen in new 4K scans of the best vintage camera negatives. I would guess a new telecine of an interpositive or internegative was likely struck, producing respectable improvements in depth and detail. Some wear is evident, mostly in the form of a few running gate scratches on the right-most edge of the widescreen frame. A handful of specks pepper the black-and-white picture. There is no serious video processing visible, definition is decent with fine clarity. Aside from minor fluctuations to the print’s luminosity, it’s a very respectable effort for this public domain film.
Fine black levels lead to superb shadow delineation and a crisp grayscale. The modest definition reveals sharp, clean video with a mild grain structure. All things considered, this is one of the stronger film transfers seen in black-and-white that hasn’t been struck from the camera negative. Its steady contrast and consistent picture quality produce a fairly solid Blu-ray presentation, one that greatly improves upon prior home video editions in terms of detail and definition.
The satisfactory 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio delivers acceptable sound quality for the dated movie. The melodramatic score by Louis Forbes and dialogue come through in serviceable fidelity. Made on the Westrex Recording System, this is a fairly typical soundtrack for its era. This audio presentation gets the job done with intelligible dialogue, rendered in a slightly thin mastering.
Optional English SDH subtitles display in a yellow font.
No special features have been included on this release. It arrives as a professionally printed BD-R in a normal Amaray Blu-ray case.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.