Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Public Domain Cinema: The Bat (1959)

Will this Shadow be a big one or mostly-just ignore?  Today's film is The Bat, more specifically the 1959 version starring Vincent Price.  It has been one I've considered doing for a long time, but now I will.  Well, I do already own it on DVD, after all.  I should eventually cover the 1926 and 1931 versions as well in the future, but there's no Price in them.  The film is one about mystery, murder and a million dollars.  That's alot of money now, but even more when you adjust for inflation.  Any of you good at Math could tell me how much that's exactly worth, but I can tell you that it is worth alot!  As such, murder will happen and continue to happen until someone finds it.  That is where The Bat comes in.  He's a stone-cold killer!  Now that Bill Finger (and some other guy) had created Batman some 16 years earlier, will this film version resemble the character that may have partially-inspired him?  All I know is that this version has Vincent Price, so it is off to a good start.  To see if it stalls or follows through, read on...
I know that this is not the film's fault, but, well, just look at what MY version of the Film looks like.  This is ominous foreshadowing if I ever saw it!
I can, however, fault them for using this cheap model.  I guess real Mansions didn't exist in 1959.

Seriously, don't rich people love to show off their Mansions?  Just say 'We'll put your house in movie' and you're set!
Anyhow, this Bank Manager explains to his Doctor (Price) that he stole (Dr. Evil fingers) $1 million and is willing to split it if he helps him fake his death.

Loving irony, Price promptly shoots him for real and burns the body to cover the evidence.
So begins the search of the man's house for the hidden money.  The Bat is working his way around the Estate, but has some trouble since people are living there right now.
I should note that some killings apparently happened off-screen between Scenes and The Bat is now a famous killer.  The Police Inspector- who's name is not important- is investigating all suspects, including Price...who is working to extract toxins from bats.
People continue to linger about the Estate and just plain get in the way.  Looks like The Bat is going to have to kill somebody (on-screen for once).

He is definitely not Batman now!
After alot of old-school dicking around (slow walking, phone lines cut, etc), the mystery comes down to this: which of these men is The Bat?
Considering that The Bat kills Price ten minutes before the climax, it is obviously The Inspector.

Naturally, it is the guy that NONE of the obvious clues led to.  That makes sense.
As the film wraps up, the lead Lady decides to address the audience directly.  It is worth noting that was based on a Play after all.

Clever nod or lazy recycling of the Ending- you decide!  The End.
This one is a bit creaky, just like the floorboards.  The basic Story elements- the mysterious killer, the missing fortune, the house full of potential victims- are all there.  It is easy to see why the Story works as a Play and was a hit as one.  As a film, it is alternately stretched too thin- implying multiple locations that it doesn't show- and pressed too tight- the same rooms used over and over again.  It is a weird thing for sure.  For example, Price has a few scenes at his own Lab, which feels odd in context to the 'Stuck at the Mansion' story of the rest of the film.  Later, they imply that he had a car accident off-camera.  To be fair, the way that scene plays out is part of the 'Who is The Bat' mystery later, so I can give that a pass.  The film tries to walk the awkward line between having the story feel like a claustrophobic play and being a full film.  In that regard, it is not exactly a success.  That said, I had no issues with the Acting and the old-timey story is presented well visually.  Fans of Old-School Cinema and writing will love it.  As for the rest of you, it doesn't hold up to the same scrutiny, feeling a bit older than it even is.  I can't imagine that the two groups will see eye-to-eye on this one...
Next up, a young couple meets Darth Vader on a Greek Island.  Considering the same guy who Wrote this made Island of Death, it won't be a fun trip.

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