31 Films of Halloween – 10/5/15: The Bat

Each day during October, Madison Film Guy will post a new mini-review/recommendation/musing on a contemporary or classic horror film to help celebrate my 31 favorite days of the year: the countdown to Halloween! Today’s film: The Bat.

The Bat, 1959


To be clear, The Bat is a guilty pleasure. It’s not great filmmaking, and it’s not very scary. But whatever the reason, I have seen The Bat more times than I’d care to admit. And there is little chance that I will make it through October without seeing it again.

With two feet firmly planted in the old dark house tradition, The Bat opens with a narrated introduction by the lead character, Cornelia van Gorder. “This is the Oaks,” her voice intones portentously, “a house in the country which I’ve rented for the summer. As an author I write tales of mystery and murder, but the things that have happened in this house are far more fantastic than any book I’ve ever had published.”

Of course, nothing all that fantastic actually happens, but that’s beside the point.

The Bat is the kind of movie in which a bank president and his doctor go to an isolated cabin in the woods for an entire summer, and nobody finds it odd. It’s the kind of movie in which lots of ordinary people seem perfectly comfortable murdering their friends and neighbors. And it’s the kind of movie in which, well, the lead character’s name would actually be Cornelia van Gorder.

In short, it’s a lot of old-time wicked fun.

Most of that fun comes courtesy of the ongoing game of cat-and-mouse-and-cat played by the three leads: Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead (who later played Endora, the mother-in-law from hell on Bewitched), and Gavin Gordon. Considering that they play a respected doctor, a prestigious writer, and the Chief of Detectives for the local police force, there are an awful lot of sinister motives and paranoid accusations flying around amongst them.

Price, especially, makes the proceedings as delightful as possible. He doesn’t exactly chew the scenery, but his smirking innuendos, questionable experiments, and violent confrontations make The Bat a classic horror lover’s dream. It may not be Price’s best movie, but he gives it all he’s got.

And, perhaps best of all, The Bat is in the public domain, which means that you can pretty much see it anywhere you can get streaming video.

Halloween season should be all about the guilty pleasures, so if you can spare 80 minutes at some point in October, sink your teeth into The Bat and enjoy.


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