The Bat (1926)

MAY 29, 2012


Hey there, Tales Of Terror set! Long time no see (over two years!). I actually forgot that I never “finished” this box, and it was buried in my desk under some other stuff that I have no time for (such as my copy of “The Strain”, which I started reading two years ago, before the 2nd book was even released. The 3rd is probably in paperback by now). But I noticed it while digging around for something else, and noticed that it included The Bat, a movie I wasn’t really interested in before – however it was noted in that slasher book I mentioned yesterday as a film that partially influenced what we know as a slasher film, so I was intrigued.

Well, obviously it’s not REALLY a slasher by any stretch of the imagination. It’s closer to a typical “Old Dark House” movie than anything else, with hidden passageways, an impossibly large cast, and a plot involving money. What makes it a “proto-slasher” is that the villain is masked (as, you guessed it, a bat) and it’s a whodunit of sorts. The movie even begins with a disclaimer asking people not to reveal the Bat’s identity, and even though everyone involved with the film has to be dead by now, I will abide by their wishes. However, it’s not particularly exciting, and you can probably figure it out through process of elimination by the halfway point or so.

Anyway, it’s an enjoyable enough silent movie. You can’t expect much in terms of action or complicated plotting, but it moves along nicely and has some unexpected comedy. The film was based on a stage show, and I suspect these bits were retained from that incarnation, particularly the snappy comebacks of the maid character. I’m less sure about the casual racism, however – there’s a Japanese character who is suspected of everything and referred to as “The Jap” and even “Jappy”. Our great grandparents’ generation sure was made up of a lot of ignorant dipshits, eh?

I was also impressed by the production design; the rooms are huge, with ceilings seemingly 30-40 feet above the characters’ heads (with accompanying giant doors that look too big to open or close by yourself). There are also some fun staircase and passageway shots where the camera is far enough back to appreciate the design – it’s one of the more visually interesting silent films I’ve seen. The Bat FX are also fun, especially when there’s a light trick that HAS TO be what inspired the “Bat signal” in the later Batman comics (Batman was created 13 years after this movie’s release – check out this article about the many other “coincidences”, many of which I didn’t even pick up on).

Now, at the top of the review I mentioned not being interested in the film. It’s not because of the plot, it’s just that it’s a silent film. I didn’t know there was a way to “suck” at watching a particular type of film, but there is, because I completely suck at watching silent films. I never know when they’re going to have a title card with the line, or just assume we could tell from reading their lips (or just skip it because it wasn’t important). So there were several times where I was a bit fuzzy as to what was going on because I neglected to pay closer attention to their lips, assuming I could just read a title card that would never appear.

The film had a sequel, plus a remake starring Vincent Price. I’d love to check out both; Bob Kane apparently admitted that the sequel was an influence on his creation, and of course any movie with Price is worth a look. And they’re presumably less racist, so bonus!

What say you?


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