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Alfred E. Green
Edward G. Robinson,
When the villagers of Klineschloss start dying of blood loss, the town fathers suspect a resurgence of vampirism. While police inspector Karl remains skeptical, scientist Dr. von Niemann cares for the vampire's victims one by one, and suspicion falls on simple-minded Herman Gleib because of his fondness for bats. A blood-thirsty mob hounds Gleib to his death, but the vampire attacks don't stop. Written by
Sister Grimm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"The Vampire Bat" is one of those underrated horror films of the early 1930's that seems to impress more with each viewing. I won't go into the details of the plot, as that has been covered multiple times in other reviews, and it's not the story that makes the film shine.
There are three things that make "The Vampire Bat" stand out from the other poverty row films - the cast, the direction, and the comedy.
The Cast - Lionel Atwill, Melvyn Douglas, and Fay Wray get the heavy lifting in the film, and all are excellent. Atwill is perfect for this type of part, as he demonstrated many times. Douglas is sufficiently perplexed as the investigator, and Fay Wray is just gorgeous in distress. The other players add sufficiently, especially Dwight Frye channeling a dimmer version of Renfield from Dracula.
The Direction - Frank Strayer does an admirable job in shooting the film, with creepiness abundant and lots of camera movement. Some shots are just so outstanding (such as the opening scene), that they almost seem out of place in a cheap horror movie. Strayer provides loads of atmosphere and never loses the audience. An excellent job.
The Comedy - As with most horror films of this time, comedy relief was thrown in to lighten the mood of the audience, and in most films, the comedy was misplaced and terribly unfunny. However, in "The Vampire Bat" the comedy, mostly provided by Maude Eburne as Aunt Gussie, is spot on and still funny today. This helps to keep the film watchable.
The Downsides - There is really only a couple of downsides to the film. The first is the editing, which is clumsy and hurried. It sometimes spoils the excellent direction. Cuts are often not matched, and this can distract. Obviously, this was not a big budget film, so the sets and overall production values are not high, but this is mostly glossed over by the efficiency and care shown by the director, but there are a few scenes where the seams showed too much, like the cave scene, parts of which look like it was filmed in a closet.
Overall, "The Vampire Bat" is certainly worth a look for the great direction, a mad Lionel Atwill, and the always lovely Fay Wray.
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