Other than Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., and Boris Karloff, one of the most important names in horror film has to be Vincent Price. Price and Moorehead showed the power of their acting chops in the film The Bat. This story has one of the most transparent plots that I have ever seen. However, the acting talents of Price, Moorehead and (to a lesser extent) Gavin Gordon, are what make the film such a delight.
Agnes Moorehead plays Cornelia Van Gorder, a mystery writer who rents a country home called “The Oaks”. Of course, the house has a creepy past (it was the location of murders committed by a killer named “The Bat”). The criminal known as “The Bat” unleashes a large, monstrous bat to kill his prey.
The Bat’s main target is a hidden stash of pilfered bank securities that is said to be in The Oaks. As such, Cornelia Van Gorder, who takes it upon herself to investigate this mysterious theft and the recent slayings, is another target of the master criminal. Aided by Dr. Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price), a local doctor, and the Chief of Police (Gavin Gordon) Gorder begins to unravel a mystery that isn’t very complicated; yet, the characters are very deceptive. However, knowing Price’s strengths, we can infer that his character isn’t totally on the level.
Even though this film isn’t on par with Price’s stronger performances (The Last Man on Earth , The House on Haunted Hill, etc.), it displays his considerable acting prowess. Price does ham it up a little bit in this performance, but that is quite forgivable since it is Vincent Price! Agnes Moorhead, a four time Oscar nominated actress and Emmy award winning actress, holds the film and adds tight suspense in her performance. Even though we know what is likely to happy, her sheer fright is palpable and creates tense scenes.
The camera work and use of tight shots create solid filmmaking. I think it was a solid, textbook film for a mystery (quasi-horror) film. While I would suggest other works of Price’s to watch, The Bat is a film that is quite strong.
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