The Bat was billed as horror-thriller-mystery when it arrived in theaters back in 1959, but given the evolution of genres in recent decades, it’s now best thought of as a straight up mystery with some noir flourishes.
Agnes Moorehead stars as Cornelia Van Gorder, a mystery writer who has rented an old Victorian mansion in the country. The included servants have abandoned her because they’re convinced a murderer called The Bat might be returning to the scene of his crimes. Meanwhile, a million dollars’ worth of assets has been stolen from a local bank by its manager, who confides in his doctor, Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price). Wells promptly kills the manager, intending to keep the loot for himself. However, things get complicated when The Bat begins terrorizing Van Gorder and her maid, Lizzie (Lenita Lane) at the mansion. It’s not long before they all find themselves entangled in a night of terror as the killer stalks his prey.
While a lot happens, it should come as no surprise that the spotlight shines on screen veterans Price and Moorehead. It’s also wonderful to Agnes Morehead in what would become one of her final dramatic roles before becoming known for her role as Endora on television’s Bewitched. The narrative is driven by the intrigue over the indemnity of the killer. A real “whodunnit” in every sense of the word, The Bat isn’t a great film, but as he did so many times throughout his career, Vincent Prince’s presence elevates the material. While speculation is rife and a few red herrings are thrown in before the reveal, the twists aren’t particularly shocking. Nonetheless, the film is fairly well paced and maintains a decent level of suspense.
As important as anything in the film is the location. The house is absolutely perfect for a mystery. Props also go to cinematographer Joseph F. Biroc smartly takes advantage of everything the large, elaborate, yet dark structure has to offer, utilizing its odd angles and many corners to his advantage in maintaining the tension.
Currently in the public domain, The Bat arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of The Film Detective in 1080p and framed in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Transferred from an archival 35mm print, some scratches and occasional specks are apparent, but no DNR or edge enhancement are apparent. Detail and depth are surprisingly good, as is the contrast. Texture won’t blow you away, but it is noticeable at various points throughout the film.
The DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track is vanilla and simple, but does the job. Dialogue is clear and fairly well balanced. The score sounds nice enough, if not particularly impressive. There’s no real hiss or distortion to speak of.
English subtitles are included.
There are no extras available.