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The Bat (1959)

Public Domain Movie: The Bat (1959)

Directed by Crane Wilbur

The Bat is a 1959 film starring Agnes Moorhead and Vincent Price. It can probably be classed as a horror movie, but it can also be equally classed as a mystery.

Moorhead plays mystery writer Cornelia van Gorder, who rents a large country house for the summer. The house, called The Oaks, belongs to the local bank manager John Fleming, but it is actually his nephew Mark who rents the house to the writer. Mark is the local real estate agent and as his Uncle has gone away on a hunting expedition for the summer, Mark sees no point in allowing the property to stand empty.

The bank manager is not quite the upstanding gentleman that people believe him to be though and has stolen over $1 million worth of securities from his bank. Worse still, he has left his cashier very much in the frame for the theft. Fleming confides this information to his friend Dr Wells, who has accompanied him on the hunting expedition, and Wells is more than a little surprised at the revelation. Fleming has a reason for sharing his secret though. Although he is confident that he has successfully covered his tracks at the bank, as an extra precaution he intends to fake his own death and wants his friend to help him. Wells reminds Fleming that they would need a body and the bank manager, having already thought of this, suggests that they first murder their guide, Sam, and then ensure that his body is so unrecognizable that no one will suspect the deception.  If the Doctor agrees to help him Fleming will split the money with him. If not he will shoot him.

Wells doesn't seem to have a lot of choice in the matter, but when his gun toting companion is distracted by a forest fire Wells picks up his own gun and shoots Fleming. The doctor knows that Fleming has a secret room built into The Oaks, realizes that that is where he will have hidden the stolen securities, and intends to take the lot.

When she hears of Fleming's death, Van Gorder has her doubts about him and believes that it was he who stole the money and not the cashier, who is a personal friend of hers and is now in jail. These are the least of her worries though. There has been someone prowling around the grounds of house and the papers are all full of stories about The Bat, a merciless killer who has no face and rips women's throats out with a steel claw!

Doctor Wells spends a lot of time at The Oaks, and The Bat is never too far away from the house either and seems to be looking for something. Are the doctor and The Bat one and the same person though? Or could the writer's chauffer/butler be the man behind the mask? The identity of the killer remains a mystery right up to the end of the film.

The Bat is an entertaining little film but I think it is Vincent Price who steals the show and he dominates his every scene with the sheer strength of his persona. Moorhead also plays quite a strong part, but the thing that I will always remember about her in this film is not her acting, but one of her dresses. It is horrible.  Don't believe me? Check it out here.

CAST

 Vincent Price  ...  Dr. Malcolm Wells
 Agnes Moorehead ...  Cornelia van Gorder
 Gavin Gordon ...  Lt. Andy Anderson
 John Sutton ...  Warner, the chauffeur
 Lenita Lane ...  Lizzie Allen
 Elaine Edwards ...  Dale Bailey


 Darla Hood ...  Judy Hollander
 John Bryant ...  Mark Fleming
 Harvey Stephens ...  John Fleming
 Robert Williams ...  Detective Davenport
 Mike Steele ...  Victor Bailey
 Riza Royce ...  Jane Patterson 

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