It’s time for a retro film from the late 50s. The Bat definitely played out very differently from what I had pictured based on the title but I would actually say that this is a good thing. It’s an old mystery with a lot of misdirection as we get three different suspects and only one of them can be the Bat. I am happy to say that I figured it out pretty early on, but the film is quite discreet so don’t expect it to be a cakewalk.
The film revolves around a mystery novelist known as Cornelia. She has moved into a house that is supposedly haunted as bad things always happen there. In fact, its owner had said nobody was ever to rent the place, but Cornelia got it through his nephew. See, it turns out that the Uncle had wanted to use the mansion as a place to stash the 1 million dollars that he stole from the bank. The plan doesn’t go over very well as he tries to murder Dr. Wells to keep his silence except the tables are turned on him. At Cornelia’s neighborhood, The Bat has resurfaced. He is a mass murderer who attacks a bunch of people and likes causing mayhem. He keeps appearing in Cornelia’s house so she hires some guards. Gradually as most of the characters get bumped off, we learn that The Bat can only be one of three different people.
The first suspect is Dr. Wells. After all, he was rather quick to murder the original thief and claimed that he would take the money for himself. He runs a lot of bat experiments and always seems to be around right after The Bat leaves. He offers a lot of cryptic advice and silent threats throughout the film but maybe they’re all in good fun. The other suspect is Lieutenant Anderson. Anderson is the chief of police and has sworn to protect Cornelia. However, while he is tasked with protecting the house, he vanished right before The Bat appears and only returns after he is gone. He claims he was chasing someone in the forest which, true or not, seems rather negligent. Finally, there is Warner. He’s always very curt and rude to the cast not to mention that his arms are rather stiff as if he were carrying a bunch of claws a lot of the time. He has a criminal record in his past and also tends to disappear quite a lot. Cornelia needs to figure out who it is fast or she’s doomed.
The writing is particularly strong in this film. Retro films like this one tend to always have consistent dialogue, but this movie sets a high standard even for those. The banter between Wells and Anderson is great throughout the whole movie. They each have great lines and I love the veiled threats mixed in there. The film was also good at really twisting the situation like how Wells turned the tables in the opening act. I wasn’t expecting the guy to beat Wells, but the whole scenario played out a lot sooner than I had expected. The movie definitely knew how to handle its tense moments. It also did a good job of seamlessly switching genres as it starts out as a slice of life adventure that seems like it’ll be pretty happy before turning into a thrilling horror film and finally into a mystery.
Wells is easily my favorite character by the way. He’s certainly no hero but you can’t deny that he is a very capable guy. Nobody is going to walk all over him. Wells always has an ace up his sleeve. Honestly, I think the film had a missed opportunity here as his final confrontation should have played out a little differently. Perhaps the film didn’t want Wells to look downright invincible, but it would have been pretty awesome to say the least. Warner was pretty unlikable the whole time. He was just a little too curt and showed a lot of blatant disregard for the authorities. I don’t even know how he was promoted since he’s never all that polite or nice. I suppose he is just that good at his job. Anderson is good for the threats and he does a pretty good job as the policeman in charge.
Cornelia is a pretty good main heroine. She certainly knows how to keep her cool under pressure. While the rest of the characters are panicking she is usually thinking of a plan on how to stay alive or how to counter attack. The rest of the house guests were pretty annoying or helpless throughout the film so Cornelia really had to do everything herself. She has a gun with her and knows how to throw a crowbar as well. It would have been nice if she could have gotten the final blow in at the end of the movie, but I’m still pretty satisfied with what happened overall.
The only thing that slightly hurts the film is naturally Wells Bat experiments. One scene looked as if a bat was trying to eat the other one which was pretty odd and out of nowhere, but the whole scene was pretty blurred so it was hard to tell what was happening. I got nervous as soon as the animals appeared at all, but nothing really ended up happening so that was good. The film was so solid that it would have been an absolute shame for something like that to have wrecked it all.
This definitely feels like an old school horror film at some points as each character is bumped off one by one. It’s always been a great concept so it’s too bad that most modern films can’t do it justice. This film takes them out without having to be super dark or violent which really sells it. For example, we have a backup cop in the movie. I won’t go into details, but his tragic ending is both serious and quite funny at the time time. It works well despite sounding like a contradiction. It doesn’t help that the guy was extremely unintelligent so you were rooting for him to leave as soon as possible. Someone’s life is in danger and he’s still asking for more details before going in to help. This is not the guy you want to be your defender in a time of crisis.
Overall, This is a mystery thriller that you should definitely add to your list of films to watch. The 3 suspect dynamic is handled extremely well here and I dare say that it is probably one of the best film examples out there where all 3 are given a sufficient motive and hints so none of the options are too obvious. It’s a fair mystery as well and you can potentially solve it before the film ends. Dr. Wells makes for a pretty great character especially since you never know whose side he is really on. The cast is pretty solid overall even if you know that some characters are going to bite the big one before it gets close to ending. Some characters were simply made for that role. They don’t really get to mourn the dead characters much either since they are always on the run or preparing for an attack. The film doesn’t overdo it with the drama which is a good thing. Several of the deaths could have been prevented if the heroes played things out a little better, but they were simply too curious for their own good. The Bat may not be a giant monster, but he is still a pretty intense villain.