The Bat is an American mystery film from 1959 starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead. It is the fourth film adaptation of the story, which began as a 1908 novel The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart, which she later adapted (with Avery Hopwood) into the 1920 play The Bat. This film version was adapted by playwright Crane Wilbur, who also directed.
The Bat was distributed in 1959 on a double bill with the British Hammer film The Mummy.
The Bat is now in the public domain, and is available for online download.
Cornelia Van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead) is a mystery author who lives in a town terrorized by a mysterious murderer known only as "The Bat". The Bat is said to be a man with no face who murders women at night by ripping out their throats with steel claws. Early in the film, The Bat enters Van Gorder's house and releases a bat, which bites van Gorder's maid Lizzy (Lenita Lane). With Lizzy in a panic, fearing she may now have contracted "the rabies", an outbreak of which local papers have reported, Van Gorder calls her doctor, Dr Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price), who is conducting research on bats.
Meanwhile, the whole town is searching for a million-dollar stash of looted bank securities that were recently stolen. Dr. Wells discovers the location of the treasure when the thief confides in him. Wells then murders the thief in cold blood, presumably so that he can take the treasure for himself, which he believes to be hidden in van Gorder's house.
A series of break-ins and murders by The Bat brings the local chief of detectives, Andy Anderson (Gavin Gordon) to the Van Gorder house. The Bat then murders two people in the Van Gorder house, Mark Fleming (John Bryant) and Judy Hollander (Darla Hood). Anderson attempts to determine the identity of The Bat, suspecting both Wells and Van Gorder's new butler, Warner (John Sutton). Wells is removed from suspicion, however, when he is murdered by The Bat in his lab.
Van Gorder cleverly manages to capture The Bat inside the secret room in her house. The Bat shoots a detective named Davenport (Robert Williams), and is then shot by Warner. Warner unmasks The Bat and he is revealed to be Lieutenant Anderson.Vincent Price as Dr. Malcolm Wells
Agnes Moorehead as Cornelia van Gorder
Gavin Gordon as Lt. Andy Anderson
John Sutton as Warner
Lenita Lane as Lizzie Allen
Elaine Edwards as Dale Bailey
Darla Hood as Judy Hollander
John Bryant as Mark Fleming
Harvey Stephens as John Fleming
Cast notesThe Bat was the final film appearance for Darla Hood, who played "Darla" in The Little Rascals shorts.
RKO Pictures bought the rights to remake the film from Mary Pickford, who produced the original 1926 film adaptation for United Artists, the studio she founded in 1919 with Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin and D. W. Griffith.
The Bat was released as a double feature with the Hammer horror film The Mummy.
According to Turner Classic Movies, in an era of movies featuring "rampaging aliens and sinister ghouls", the film's period piece approach was not a crowd pleaser, although its reputation has improved over time.
Film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film 2 1/2 out of 4 stars (a rating which he used more than any other rating) calling it "[a] faithful filming of Mary Roberts Rinehart-Avery Hopwood play".
Allmovie gave the film a mixed review, complimenting the film's screenplay, but criticized the script's mechanical nature and lack of scariness, as well as the varying quality of performances from the cast. But they also stated, "While it's all done in a by-the-numbers manner, there's more than enough here to entertain whodunit fans".
In a contemporary review of the film, The New York Times praised Moorehead's "good, snappy performance" and Crane Wilbur's direction.