Public Domain Movie: The Vampire Bat (1933)

Horror Movie Review

The Vampire Bat (1933)

The Vampire Bat is not the usual run-of-the-mill vampire film. There are no howling wolves—the children of the night seem to have lost their singing voices. Nor is there a dusty old castle or any sign of coffins. There is a laboratory though, and it looks a little reminiscent of Frankenstein’s lab.

In the opening sequence, an old man is hobbling along the dusky streets of Kleinschloss. He is carrying a lantern and leaning heavily on his stick. Some large bats are hanging from the branches of a nearby tree. The old man glances up at the bats and then sees something much larger than a bat crossing the rooftops. He hobbles off as fast as he can and the camera zooms in on a lighted upper window just as a woman’s scream rips through the night.

Meanwhile, the town fathers are engaged in a meeting and are discussing what they believe to be a resurgence of vampirism. There are five men sitting at the table, but only one man, Police Inspector Karl Brettschneider, seems sceptical of the idea of vampires. Karl believes may not believe in vampires, but people are dying in Kleinschloss, all of them drained of their blood. The worst thing about all of this is that none of the villager’s preventative measures are working. They lock their doors, close their windows and clasp crosses to their chests while they sleep, but they are still drained by the morning.

While the police inspector searches for a rational explanation for the deaths, Scientist, Dr Otto von Niemann, examines the victims and soon-to-be-victims and takes the less than scientific view that a vampire might be responsible.

Dr von Nieman’s assistant is the more than lovely Ruth Bertin, played by Fay Wray, who fans of classic cinema might remember from the original King Kong movie. As well as being the Dr’s assistant Ruth also spends a lot of time in the arms of Karl and they make rather an attractive on-screen couple.

Of course, with so many unexplained deaths, the villagers need someone to point the finger at and it is the slightly dim-witted Herman Gleib that seems to be on the receiving end of their fingers, partly because of his unnatural obsession with bats, which he keeps as pets. As is so often the case on the silver screen, things are not as they may seem.

The Vampire Bat: Additional Information

Directed by Frank R. Streyer


Lionel Atwill … Dr. Otto von Niemann
Fay Wray … Ruth Bertin

Melvyn Douglas … Karl Brettschneider
Maude Eburne … Aunt Gussie Schnappmann

George E. Stone … Kringen
Dwight Frye … Herman Gleib

Robert Frazer … Emil Borst
Rita Carlyle … Martha Mueller

Lionel Belmore … Burgermeister Gustave Schoen
William V. Mong … Sauer

Stella Adams … Georgiana
Harrison Greene … Weingarten

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