Monday, 6 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: The Vampire Bat (1933)

The Vampire Bat (1933)
Director: Frank R. Strayer
Starring: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray and Melvyn Douglas
Running Time: 65 min

  It's funny to think that even after all these years of watching movies that I'm still discovering really great actors.  In this case, Melvyn Douglas, who was recently featured on TCM in films like "Hud" with Paul Newman and "Being There" with Peter Sellers but we would recognize him as Senator Carmichael from the film, "The Changeling", which was one of his last films. This just goes to prove, everybody actor as some horror in them.

  Police Inspector Karl Brettschneider and the town officials of Kleinschloss are having a meeting that concerns the recent murders in the village.  The officials believe that since the killers M.O. is draining the blood of their victims and with all the bats that have recently been hovering around the city, it stand to reason that the killer must be a vampire!  Of course! However, Inspector Karl thinks that there must be a more rational explanation to this and assures the town officials that he is on the case and the killer will be brought to justice, then heads over to his girlfriend, Ruth's place.  She happens to be living with the town's doctor and science guy, Dr. Otto van Niemann.  After they have a discussion of how silly the town is to think that it could be vampires, the doctor is on his way to visit on of the latest victims and Inspector Karl tags along.
  While Dr. Otto is at the victim's home, she is visited by a mentally challenged man who really likes bats and apples, Herman Gleib.  He tells everyone their how the victim was nice to him, how she gave him apples and how wonderful bats are.  Shortly after the visit, more townsfolk start dropping like flies and naysayers approach the Inspector and the doctor and let them know that the believe Herman is the vampire.  They also allude to the idea that they should arrest him or the town is going to lynch him.  Is the vampire a mentally challenged man who likes getting apples from his neighbours and then sucking their blood or is there a more sinister plot outbound and will Inspector Karl be able to nab the killer before it's too late for Herman?


  You can tell that this movie was pieced together quickly by how the whole thing turns out in the end.  Apparently, Majestic Pictures Inc, wanted to cash in on the successful duo of Lionel Atwill  who played Dr. Otto and Fay Wray, who played Ruth and decided to put together a quick horror movie.  They leased some sets from Universal to make it look more professional and hired Dwight Frye, as Herman and then they had there own knock off monster movie.  I hope you learned something from this young directors.  
**SPOILER** Anyway, I found the script to be confusing at times and I don't remember any explanation about how the doctor found or created the organism, he needs the blood for or how he came to have telepathic powers to control people. **ENDSPOILER** 
 

  However slapped together or crappy I found the script, at least the actors were professional and they played the hell out of these characters.  Although meant to exploit Fay Wray (King Kong, The Most Dangerous Game) and Lionel Awill (Doctor X, Mystery of the Wax Mueseum), this low budget creaker showcases Melvyn Douglas (Ghost Story, The Tenant) as exceptional leading man as Inspector Karl.  Also, Dwight Frye (Frankenstein, Dracula) takes another secondary character like Herman and makes him so incredibly memorable.  This is proves the old adage that sometimes it isn't the words but who is saying them.


  It may appear to be one but this isn't Universal Monster movie.  It lacks the concise story telling and direction that the films were known for and it gets very muddled at the end.  Still, there are some good moments from a terrific cast and it's run time is only 63 min.  So if you got an hour to spare at lunch and somebody gave you an apple, then it's worth a watch.
 

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