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The Bat Whispers (1930)

6.6
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 441 users  
Reviews: 28 user | 17 critic

A master criminal terrorizes the occupants of an isolated country mansion.

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(based upon a stage play by), (based upon a stage play by), 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chance Ward ...
Richard Tucker ...
Wilson Benge ...
The Butler
DeWitt Jennings ...
Police Captain
Sidney D'Albrook ...
Police Sergeant
S.E. Jennings ...
Grayce Hampton ...
Maude Eburne ...
Spencer Charters ...
The Caretaker
Una Merkel ...
...
Brook
Gustav von Seyffertitz ...
Dr. Venrees
...
Hugh Huntley ...
Charles Dow Clark ...
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Storyline

Despite advance warning to the police, who seal off the area, The Bat, a master criminal, steals a necklace from the safe in the house of a rich socialite. He leaves a note saying he is going to the country to give the police a rest. Pausing only to rob a bank at Oakdale, he proceeds to terrorise the occupants of a lonely country mansion, in a mixture of thrills, chills and laughs. At the end, an actor steps forward through a proscenium arch and asks the viewers not to reveal the Bat's identity to their friends. A film noir shot in black and white, mainly at night in dimly lit scenes. Written by Michael Crew <m.crew@bbcnc.org.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Look out! The arch criminal is here!


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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

13 November 1930 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Roland West's The Bat Whispers  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Alledgedly the movie that inspired Bob Kane to create Batman. See more »

Goofs

Mr. Bel is shown to be living where the window is lighted, which is the top floor. When the bat leaves through the window and climbs a rope to the roof he is seen climbing up from below the to floor. See more »

Quotes

The Unknown: It's been a long chase, Mister Bat. But we've got you. We've got you red-handed!
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the film an actor comes onto a movie house stage and implores the audience to withhold the identity of the bat from family and friends so they can also enjoy the movie. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Nijiotoko (1949) See more »

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User Reviews

Masterful cinema in the Old Dark House genre
16 August 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Roland West's THE BAT WHISPERS was based on a hugely successful Broadway play, The Bat, widely credited for having created the vogue for thriller plays in the 1920's. (The 1927 production "Dracula" which starred Bela Lugosi on stage was part of the mystery vogue, and led directly to the 1930 Universal film which kicked off the 30's cycle of horror movies). West filmed The Bat in 1926 as a silent, with great success. The 1930 remake was a large production, shot simultaneously in standard 35mm and a new widescreen 65mm process. Theater owners largely rejected the expense of installing 65mm equipment, and most people who saw this film on its release saw the 35mm version.

Among them was Bob Kane, who credited it as a major influence in his creation of Batman in the late 30's. It's easy to see why. This is a stunning looking film (I'm referring to the 35mm version, which I saw at the 2004 UCLA Festival of Preservation) gorgeously photographed by Ray June. In an old dark house where the lights are constantly going off, and lighting is frequently provided by candles, or lightning, bizarre lighting effects start to become the norm, and the dramatic possibilities take off. The director used every conceivable angle to keep things visually lively, mirroring the ridiculous complexity of the plot with a visual complexity that always keeps the viewer slightly off balance.

Much has been made of the sweeping camera moves and the use of miniatures. The miniatures are a bit obvious, but their intent remains effective if you're willing to go with it. (Being willing to "go with it" is pretty much a necessity in general for this film, which was a wild and unrealistic ride in its time, and deliberately so.) The photography benefits from a number of technical innovations, including a lightweight camera dolly invented for this production that allowed the camera to be moved 18 feet vertically in a matter of moments.

The performances - both comic and dramatic characters - are deliberately hokey, very stagey turns that were the standard for this genre. Much of Chester Morris' mugging and squinting, however, are attributable to the violently bright underlighting that was used in his closeups, which eventually scorched his retinas (a condition which became known as Klieg Eye). Within that context, they are wonderful performances. Morris is particularly engaging, as is Grayce Hampton as the patrician Cornelia Van Gorder, the middle-aged spinster who refuses to be scared out of the house. (Hampton appears to be a very capable stage actress, and offers perhaps the most natural performance in the film. She had made one previous film – in 1916 – and made numerous subsequent ones, usually in bit parts, until she was nearly 80.) Her no-nonsense dowager centers the film perfectly, keeping the other characters (and performances) from plunging completely off the deep end.

The plot? A master criminal, The Bat, is on the loose, a half-million dollars have been stolen from a bank by somebody else, and The Bat is trying to get it. The money has apparently been brought to a lonely mansion in a rural town (apparently somewhere on then-rural Long Island) where a middle-aged woman and her made are renting for the summer. Someone is trying to scare her out of the house, so she has sent for detectives. From there, anything goes.


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