• Bat, The

    Released by: The Film Detective
    Released on: October 20th, 2015.
    Director: Crane Wilbur
    Cast: Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, Gavin Gordon, Harvey Stephens, Lenita Lane
    Year: 1959
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    The Movie:

    When this 1959 Crane Wilbur pictures begins, newspaper headlines alert us to the activities of a maniacal killer dubbed ‘The Bat’ by the press. It just so happens that he’s running rampant in the same area as The Oaks, a mansion rented for the summer by a writer named Cornelia van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead) and her secretary Lizzie Allen (Lenita Lane).

    This soon ties into a subplot involving John Fleming (Harvey Stephens) a banker who owns The Oaks who has just recently embezzled millions from his employer. The only one who knows about this is his close friend Doctor Malcom Wells (Vincent Price). Fleming is hopeful that with Wells’ help he’ll be able to keep this a secret and keep the authorities away but of course this quickly goes sour and Wells winds up shooting Fleming dead. While it was kind of a case of self-defense, with Fleming out of the way Wells has no qualms about heading to the location where his late friend had stashed the loot in hopes of retrieving it for himself.

    Of course, you can soon figure out where Fleming might have hidden the money, and once you do it makes perfect sense that our stories would collide at The Oaks… but what does this have to do with the killer on the loose, the one with the cool nickname who dresses only in black and wields a deadly claw? A cop named Lt. Andy Anderson (Gavin Gordon) would love to know.

    More of a mystery film than a horror picture (despite the marketing campaign that clearly played up Price’s presence and his horror star persona), The Bat is a bit creaky in spots but it makes for a fun watch. The cast are a lot of fun here, it’s interesting to see Moorehead show up in this picture a while before she’d become immortalized on TV in Bewitched as Endora, and she does a fine job in the part. She has the right sort of features to play a horror writer and the right sort of screen presence and attitude to pull it off. Lenita Lane as her pushover of a secretary is less memorable here but still decent enough while Gavin Gordon (Lord Byron from The Bride Of Frankenstein!) is in fine form as the cop. Harvey Stephens isn’t given as much to do as he’s killed off somewhat early in the movie but Price, always watchable, makes the most of his screen time and delivers fine work here.

    Just as important in all of this as the actors, however, is the location. The house that serves as the film’s primary location is perfect for a shadowy tale of mystery, murder and mayhem and the cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc takes full advantage of everything that the big, ornate old house has to offer. Louise Forbes’ score accentuates the shadowy and atmospheric look of the film quite nicely as well, making it easy to overlook a few stretches that are a bit too talky and a few plot devices that are a bit too clichéd.


    The Bat arrives on Blu-ray (well, technically a BD-R) from The Film Detective in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it looks quite nice. Transferred from an archival 35mm print the image is free of noise reduction and edge enhancement and while it isn’t exactly spotless, print damage is never a serious problem. Detail and depth are solid throughout and contrast looks good and we get some frequently impressive texture as well. Black levels are decent and contrast is fine – this looks very nice.

    The only audio option for the feature is a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, with optional subtitles provided, also in English only. Clarity and balance are pretty solid here and there aren’t any major levels spikes in the mix, nor are there any problems with any hiss or distortion. The score in particular has pretty nice range here.

    Aside from static menus and chapter selection there are no extras features on this Blu-ray.

    The Final Word:

    The Bat won’t go down in history as Vincent Price’s greatest film but it sure is a fun way to kill an hour and a half. It might be a bit clichéd in spots but the solid performances and frequently heavy doses of atmosphere help this to rise above the genre trappings. The Blu-ray release from Film Detective is barebones, it does look and sound quite a bit better than any other version this reviewer has ever seen on home video.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      I watched this last night. Decent looking BD which was a pleasant surprise, but wow, the film was far lamer than I recalled.Hopefully future Film Detective releases source equal or better sources.
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      I really like THE BAT but am on the fence about a double dip.