• Vampire Bat, The



    Released by: The Film Detective
    Released on: April 25th, 2017.
    Director: Frank R. Strayer
    Cast: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas, Dwight Frye
    Year: 1933
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    The Movie:

    In the quaint European village of Klineschloss a mysterious hooded figure keeps the town in panic as a rash of murders occurs. Each of the victims has been drained of their blood and found dead in their bed, murdered very late in the night. To top it all off, there are puncture marks on their necks!

    Local law man Karl Brettschneider (Melvyn Douglas) is called upon to investigate the different crime scenes and is utterly convinced that the murderer is simply a lunatic – a dangerous lunatic, of course, but a very human one. The townsfolk, however, have a very different reading of the events. They suspect that a simpleton named Herman Gleib (Dwight Frye) with an unusual affinity for the horde of vampire bats that have made their home in some nearby caves could have something to do with it – or it could very well be the actions of an actual vampire!

    Meanwhile, a scientist named Doctor Otto von Niemann (Lionel Atwill) comes up with theories of his own, but before you know it, Ruth Bertin (Fay Wray), his assistant - and Brettschneider’s flame – has been kidnapped and violent mob justice starts to run wild through the streets of Klineschloss…

    Directed by Frank R. Strayer in 1933 for Majestic Pictures, The Vampire Bat is a lot of fun. Shot on sets leftover from Frankenstein and a few other Universal Productions, the movie looks better than it probably ever should have given its low budget origins. Still, it’s an interesting picture that makes good use of a fine cast. Dwight Frye is absolutely the best part of the picture, skulking about looking very disheveled and fairly insane. He chews the scenery a little bit but the picture is all the better for it. Lionel Atwill is also well cast as the scientist and Melvyn Douglas total leading man material as the dashing cop out to save the day. You’ve also got to appreciate seeing the lovely Fay Wray show up here. She and Atwill also worked on Doctor X together and Mystery Of The Wax Museum a year prior to this picture so they have fairly good chemistry together. She’s as lovely as ever here, a great ‘damsel in distress.’

    To Strayer’s credit, he manages to create some decent atmosphere here. Some of the credit for that should go to cinematographer Ira H. Morgan. Some of the camerawork here is impressive, capturing the impressive sets and occasional locations used in the picture rather well and adding a nice, gothic ambience to the proceedings.

    The pacing is decent, despite a couple of scenes that are a bit too talky for their own good, and the score is pretty solid. Most of the time this one works really well, making you wonder if the reason it isn’t held in higher regard by classic horror fans is that it’s always looked like total shit on home video. But now it’s on Blu-ray, does that make a difference?

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Vamprie Bat arrives on Blu-ray (well, technically a BD-R) from The Film Detective in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.33.1 fullframe and it looks quite nice. Transferred from the UCLA’s restored 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 even if there is the occasional missing frame here and there. 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 and it absolutely mops the floor with all of the cruddy looking ‘public domain’ DVD versions that have been around for ages.

    It’s also worth noting that a previously lost scene where the villagers chase Frye’s character into the hills has been digitally recreated here so that this presentation matches the originally intended presentation (where the flames on the torches were hand colored).

    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.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track with none other than Sam Sherman. While he wasn’t directly involved in the making of this film, he’s got some great stories that related to it including how he got to know the widow of the film’s producer, Phil Goldstone, after he had passed away. Sherman is a great raconteur, discussing the film’s production and distribution history, making some astute observations about what works in the film, noting the quality of some of the performances and even talking about his own interactions with Fay Wray and Melvyn Douglas before they each passed on.

    There’s also a seven minute featurette here called Becoming The Son Of Melvyn Douglas with Gregory Hesselberg. He shares some fascinating stories about how his father left his mother for another woman and was basically absent throughout his life until his mother took ill and he wound up living with him, at which point their relationship improved. It’s fairly personal stuff but it paints an interesting picture of one of The Vampire Bat’s leading men.

    Menus and chapter selection are also included.

    The Final Word:

    The Vampire Bat holds up surprisingly well – it’s never really scary but it is loaded with atmosphere, features a great cast, is plenty entertaining and a whole lot of fun. The film’s Blu-ray debut from The Film Detective presents the picture in surprisingly great shape and with a couple of interesting extra features too. Fans of pre-code horror should appreciate this one.

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























    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      I'm really looking forward to this one as 99% of the PD offerings looked like shit. Plus I would listen to Sam Sherman even if he was talking about soap operas.
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Oh hell yes! Given your praise and how good those screen caps look, I'm on this!!!!
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