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The Bat (The Film Detective) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Bat (The Film Detective) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: The Film Detective
    Released on: October 25th, 2022.
    Director: Crane Wilbur
    Cast: Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, Gavin Gordon, Harvey Stephens, Lenita Lane
    Year: 1959
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Bat – Movie Review:

    When this 1959 Crane Wilbur pictures begins, newspaper headlines alert us to the activities of a maniacal killer dubbed 'The Bat' by the press. It just so happens that he's running rampant in the same area as The Oaks, a mansion rented for the summer by a writer named Cornelia van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead) and her secretary Lizzie Allen (Lenita Lane).

    This soon ties into a subplot involving John Fleming (Harvey Stephens) a banker who owns The Oaks who has just recently embezzled millions from his employer. The only one who knows about this is his close friend Doctor Malcom Wells (Vincent Price). Fleming is hopeful that with Wells' help he'll be able to keep this a secret and keep the authorities away but of course this quickly goes sour and Wells winds up shooting Fleming dead. While it was kind of a case of self-defense, with Fleming out of the way Wells has no qualms about heading to the location where his late friend had stashed the loot in hopes of retrieving it for himself.

    Of course, you can soon figure out where Fleming might have hidden the money, and once you do it makes perfect sense that our stories would collide at The Oaks… but what does this have to do with the killer on the loose, the one with the cool nickname who dresses only in black and wields a deadly claw? A cop named Lt. Andy Anderson (Gavin Gordon) would love to know.

    More of a mystery film than a horror picture (despite the marketing campaign that clearly played up Price's presence and his horror star persona), The Bat is a bit creaky in spots but it makes for a fun watch. The cast are a lot of fun here, it's interesting to see Moorehead show up in this picture a while before she'd become immortalized on TV in Bewitched as Endora, and she does a fine job in the part. She has the right sort of features to play a horror writer and the right sort of screen presence and attitude to pull it off. Lenita Lane as her pushover of a secretary is less memorable here but still decent enough while Gavin Gordon (Lord Byron from The Bride Of Frankenstein!) is in fine form as the cop. Harvey Stephens isn't given as much to do as he's killed off somewhat early in the movie but Price, always watchable, makes the most of his screen time and delivers fine work here.

    Just as important in all of this as the actors, however, is the location. The house that serves as the film's primary location is perfect for a shadowy tale of mystery, murder and mayhem and the cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc takes full advantage of everything that the big, ornate old house has to offer. Louise Forbes' score accentuates the shadowy and atmospheric look of the film quite nicely as well, making it easy to overlook a few stretches that are a bit too talky and a few plot devices that are a bit too clichéd.

    The Bat – Blu-ray Review:

    Film Detective reissues The Bat on Blu-ray on a region free disc framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and offered up in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, and it looks quite nice. Transferred from an archival 35mm print the image is free of any edge enhancement and while it isn't exactly spotless, print damage is never a serious problem. There is some light to moderate noise reduction here, however, and this does take away from some of the detail and texture you’d probably expect to get from a proper high definition transfer. Black levels are decent and contrast is fine - this could look more like film but overall, it looks okay.

    The only audio option for the feature is a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, with optional subtitles provided, also in English only. Clarity and balance are pretty solid here and there aren't any major levels spikes in the mix, nor are there any problems with any hiss or distortion. The score in particular has pretty nice range here.

    The previous Blu-ray issue was barebones, but this new disc features quite a bit of extra content starting with a commentary from Professor Jason A. Ney. Throughout this discussion, he spends quite a bit of time going over the history of the play that inspired the movie, the earlier film adaptations of the story, how the play was updated by Wilbur to appease what were then modern audiences and how the film affected the careers of Price and Moorehead. It also goes over the film's low budget and quick twelve day shooting schedule, the portrayal of class in the movie, the film's widescreen aspect ratio, transferring elements that worked in the play to the silver screen, why certain character motivations are laid out the way that they are, lots of details on the different cast and crew members that appear in the picture and on director Wilbur and plenty more.

    Up next is a featurette titled The Case For Crane Wilbur, a twenty-two minute examination of Wilbur’s career, how he got into acting, some of the more important roles in the early part of his career, his career in live theater, his work in various horror productions including The Monster and The Bat, the popularity of his script for Alcatraz Island and the success of a few of the crime films he wrote, the different themes that some of his writing explored, his work on House Of Wax and how that led to him working on more horror movies like The Mad Magician and more.

    The disc also includes nine archival radio re-broadcast episodes featuring Vincent Price, each running just under half an hour in length.

    -The Strange Death Of Charles Umberstein from Novemeber 23rd, 1943 from the series Suspense
    -Fugue In C Minor from June 1st, 1944 from the series Suspense
    -Hunting Trip from September 12th, 1946 from the series Suspense
    -Angel Street from October 9th, 1945 from the show Theater Of Romance
    -The Lodger from May 19th, 1976 from the show Hollywood Star Time
    -Present Tense from January 31st, 1950 from the show Escape
    -Three Skeleton Key from March 17th, 1950 from the show Escape
    -Blood Bath from June 30th, 1950 from the show Escape
    -Speaking Of Cinderella from April 6th, 1956 from the show CBS Radio Workshop

    Inside the keepcase alongside the disc is a color insert booklet containing an essay on the movie titled The Case Of The Forgotten Author: The Literary Conundrum Of Mary Roberts Rinehart

    The Bat – The Final Word:

    The Bat won't go down in history as Vincent Price's greatest film but it sure is a fun way to kill an hour and a half. It might be a bit clichéd in spots but the solid performances and frequently heavy doses of atmosphere help this to rise above the genre trappings. The Blu-ray reissue from Film Detective is offers up a decent selection of extra features and it does look and sound quite a bit better than any other version this reviewer has ever seen on home video, even if the noise reduction is much more prevalent than it needed to be.


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Bat Blu-ray screen caps!

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