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Daily film recommendation: 'The Bat' (1959)

The mysterious murderer known as "The Bat"
The mysterious murderer known as "The Bat"
Allied Artists

“The Bat” does not contain any of the cheesiness normally associated with horror films of its era. Despite being a low budget thriller, “The Bat” is a taut, suspenseful film that will keep you guessing from start to finish.

Based on a 1920 Broadway play of the same name, “The Bat” was put on film twice before, in 1926 and 1930, before this movie was made. Agnes Moorehead stars as Cornelia Van Gorder, a mystery author who lives in a town being terrorized by a faceless murderer known as The Bat, who kills his victims by slicing their throat with his claws. When it becomes evident that The Bat is stalking around Cornelia’s home, she calls Dr. Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price), who is doing research on bats, to help; the investigation is soon aided by the presence of detective Andy Anderson (Gavin Gordon).

But who really is The Bat? There’s never really a clear clue or hint as to the killer’s identity throughout the film, so it could be anyone. It could be Price, who is the main draw of this movie, even though he isn’t playing a strictly creepy character. It could be the butler, Warner (John Sutton). It could be the thief who stole a million dollars from the town bank.

The tough-as-nails Moorehead is perfect in the lead as the only person who is probably devoid of any suspicion. The film was shot in black-and-white, which enhances the creepiness. The darkness combined with director Crane Wilbur’s use various camera angles and staging also helps hide the identity of certain characters, making it more difficult to determine a clear suspect.

“The Bat” is not just a horror movie; it’s a compelling mystery, and the only noticeably corny parts are the ones that contain an obviously fake bat; but that’s easily ignored. Besides being a solid installment in the filmography of Vincent Price, “The Bat” is also notable for being the last film featuring actress Darla Hood, the leading lady of the Little Rascals, in one of her only adult roles.

"The Bat" is currently streaming for free on YouTube.

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