The Vampire Bat (1/10/1933) Waste not, want not. Majestic Pictures was pretty clever pushing this piggy back production into theaters at the height of advertising campaigns for similar pictures. By using Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray and Melvyn Douglas, and shooting at night on Universal’s European village and the Old Dark House sets, absent great cinematography this film could have been a legit Universal film.
The script even isn’t half bad, not having an actual monster at its core it relys on people feeding into their own paranoias. Atwill’s arch and peculiar performance telegraphs his villainy: another mad scientist looking for the secret of life and exploting fear, rumor, and mythology to run amuck. I get hypnotizing someone to do your dirty work, but what’s with the cape? Did you convince him he was a Vampire? What’s the deal with the long distance hypnosis? cause that’s a neat trick. Dwight Frye’s obviously rabid bat collector steals this picture shamelessly but without him it just doesn’t work. Douglas’ police inspector, ostensibly the voice of reason, makes a bonehead play sending a screaming mob with torches and dogs after a mentally ill man.
Stagey and creaky, with no special effects, it’s just a tiny picture that nary puts a foot wrong, except by tying Fay Wray to a chair and then GAGGING HER? What are you stupid? Maude Eburne’s hypochondriac comic relief is reason enough to buy the restored version.