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)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chance Ward ...
Richard Tucker ...
Wilson Benge ...
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

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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

The special effects were shot in 35mm. Process photography techniques, not optical printing, was used to make the 65mm negatives of this footage. 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

Cornelia van Gorder: We'll get to the bottom of this. I've sent for detectives.
The Caretaker: Detectives won't do no good. The entire police force won't do no good.
[nervous laugh]
The Caretaker: They can't stop ghosts.
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

Remade as Sh! The Octopus (1937) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Bat Whispers (1930)
3 April 2005 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

The film does feel creaky, the humor is laid a little too thick for my tastes at times (much like Paul Leni's THE CAT AND THE CANARY [1927], in fact) and Maude Eburne as the cowardly maid IS unbearable…but this is more than made up for, in my opinion, by the film's dazzling cinematography, atmospheric sets and deliberate theatricality (complete with asides to the audience in the finale). In any case, it's easily miles ahead of the inept and boring Vincent Price remake of 1959! You will have noticed that I have preceded (as is my fashion) the film's name with that of its director. I'll be the first to admit that nearly nobody today remembers Roland West, let alone be prepared to accord him "auteur" status, but you'll agree that the VERY distinctive visual style of the film indicates an assured guiding hand behind the whole project. Although hardly as well-known today or as easy to find, THE BAT WHISPERS is by no means West's only notable feature; as a matter of fact, based on the minute information I've managed to find on them in my reference books, I'd be very interested in watching THE UNKNOWN PURPLE (1923; an intriguing-sounding precursor to James Whale's THE INVISIBLE MAN [1933]), THE BAT (1926; the original Silent-film version of THE BAT WHISPERS), the gangster drama ALIBI (1929; which even earned Chester Morris a Best Actor Academy Award nomination) and CORSAIR (1931), his last film. As for myself, the only other Roland West film I've seen is the atypical and rather unsatisfactory Lon Chaney vehicle THE MONSTER (1925), which also happens to be a bizarre 'old dark house' melodrama.

Elliott Stein, in Richard Roud's indispensable tome, "Cinema: A Critical Dictionary – The Major Film-Makers" described Roland West as "one of America's supremely original visual stylists, the director of a series of stunning thrillers." He also names ALIBI "one of the most oppressive films ever made…the distorted sets, odd angles and restless camera make it West's most Germanic work…this claustrophobic little nightmare would be fully at home in a retrospective of the American avant-garde film." Furthermore, he acclaims THE BAT WHISPERS as "a pictorial knock-out" and CORSAIR "a visual treat"! Unfortunately, his promising career was suddenly curtailed by a real-life tragedy. West was involved and living with renowned comedienne Thelma Todd (a frequent foil for Laurel & Hardy and The Marx Brothers) in Malibu at the time of her mysterious death in 1935. Neighbors heard them quarreling the night before the morning she was found in her garage overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning; though a suspect, he was never arrested but, of course, he could never work in Hollywood (or elsewhere) again.

I've only watched THE BAT WHISPERS (twice), in Widescreen, on VHS and I've been meaning to pick up Image's DVD edition (comprising also the 'alternate' full-frame version, shot simultaneously by a different cameraman!) for the longest time. As it happens, from the online reviews I've read of the disc, the verdict as to which version is actually 'better' seems to be pretty mixed.


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