This version of The Bat was made by Crane Wilbur, a playwright and actor turned screenwriter with classics like I Was a Communist for the FBI (1951), House of Wax (1953), The Mad Magician (1954), The Phenix City Story (1955), Solomon and Sheba (1959) and Mysterious Island (1961) to his name. Crane Wilburs output as a screenwriter overshadows his work as a director, but he made more than 30 films as a director, although none of them memorable.
The Bat was not one of Crane Wilburs better moments. It is a horribly pedestrian film. Wilburs camera is frequently static, just as if one is watching a filmed version of a drawing room stage play. Wilbur rarely cut shots up or move into a scene to create suspense or atmosphere. He throws in crude shadow lighting effects a bat flying, figures skulking but they seem dated effects that well and truly belong to the silent era. It is hard to believe that a film as creaky as The Bat could be made in 1959, sandwiched a year either side of such modern classics as Hammers Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958) and Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho (1960). And considered alongside Roland Wests dynamic direction of both the 1926 The Bat and The Bat Whispers three decades earlier, The Bat makes for the least interesting interpretation of the story possible there is no suspense, the film is slow and talky with only occasional atmosphere, and Crane Wilbur has bled all the comedy out of the story. One thing that Wilbur does retain from The Bat Whispers and the play is the end coda wherein Agnes Moorhead turns to directly address the audience: But dont try it no matter how clever you are, you cant hide murder. Although this time it is the heroine that delivers the warning rather than The Bat.
The Bat stars Agnes Moorhead, a member of Orson Welles Mercury Theatre troupe who was probably best known as the mother-in-law Endora in tvs Bewitched (1964-72). Moorhead gives an arch performance in the lead, which has its amusements. The attention The Bat has in historic retrospect is in starring Vincent Price, although at the time the film was made Price was not quite the horror icon that he became after Roger Cormans The House of Usher (1960) the following year. The presence of Vincent Price tends to throw the film off somewhat his usual undeniably villainous overplaying tends to overshadow the presence of The Bat and makes him into the central suspect, even when such eventually turns out not to be the case after all.
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