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Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Vampire Bat


I'm not afraid to admit that bats scare the hell out of me.  I have a hard time even watching them on TV or in a movie.  And when a movie is called, "The Vampire Bat", you can expect me to be ready to squirm a bit when they show the bats...

The small village of Kleinschloss is being plagued by a rash of killings- killings where the victims have been drained of their blood.  Unable to find clues of a human killer, the authorities are forced to contemplate the supernatural...

"The Vampire Bat" was produced by Majestic Pictures, Inc. as a way for them to cash in on the publicity of Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill appearing in Warner Bros' films "Doctor X" (1932), and "Mystery of the Wax Museum" (1933).  As soon as Wray and Atwill finished filming, "Mystery of the Wax Museum", Majestic Pictures hired them for their own film.

To help their rather low budget film look like that of an "A-List" studio, Majestic Pictures leased sets from Universal pictures- such as the German Village set from "Frankenstein" (1931), and interiors from "The Old Dark House" (1932).  Dwight Frye was also hired to "populate" various scenes with Wray and Atwill.

This is a slightly silly film- but one that is still quite enjoyable.

The acting, in regards to the villagers (especially Kreiger) was over-the-top, but fun to watch.  Dwight Frye as the quirky, bat-loving Herman was wonderful- and you can get a sense of what he brought to 1931's "Frankenstein" as the Dr.'s assistant, Fritz.  Lionel Atwill was well cast as Dr. von Niemann- bringing an air of sophistication and charm to the role.  Fay Wray, was both beautiful and talented as his assistant, while Melvyn Douglas was dashing as Karl- the police inspector.  I also enjoyed Maude Eburne's humorous turn as Aunt Gertie.

The camera work wasn't complex, but had enough interesting angles as well as effective use of shadows in some scenes to be effective.  The best shot involves a dark figure entering Karl's window as he sleeps.  The background portion of this shot is beautiful.  Even the shot of the bats was well done... though thankfully for me, it was brief.

I have to admit though, that the story itself was a little thin- but it still managed to serve its purpose.  They left some aspects of the story hanging without an explanation, which detracts a bit from the logic and flow of the movie overall.

While this isn't what I would consider a "classic," it is a movie that I would willingly pop into the machine during a horror film night with friends, popcorn and beer... even if it's just have have a laugh and a good chuckle.  This film sits in "The Bad"... but in a good way.

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