Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actor: Louise Fazenda
Director: Roland West
Genres: Classics, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
1926 silent film is based on the book and stage play by mary roberts rinehart. A mysterious criminal known as the bat is stalking a country house. Studio: Gotham (dba Alpha) Release Date: 08/31/2004 Starring: Louise Faz... more »
Steven Hellerstedt | 05/21/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
Roland West's THE BAT is a moderately engaging silent film adapted from a hit Broadway play. Scratch the modifying `moderate' and kick it up a notch if you're into movie set designs, ancient `horror' movies, and/or are interested in the origins of the comic book hero Batman.
The title character, the `Bat,' is a master criminal with a flair for the gymnastic; a thief who swoops and swirls, rappels down the sides of tall buildings and skitters across broad skylights. He witnesses a bank robbery and - oh yeah - he's decked out in a large cape and hides his face behind a frightening papier-mâché `bat' mask replete with bat ears and a carnivorous bat snout. When the back light hits him just so he resembles Mickey Mouse, assuming Mickey grew a sharp set of teeth and developed a cardboard snarl. Why he's costumed thus isn't ever explained, but it makes a lot of cinematic sense in that it facilitates some interesting visual effects. Like, for instance, a bat silhouette in the middle of a flashlight beam that was lifted wholesale by the young Bob Kane when he created his comic book caped crusader.
Most of the movie takes place in a creaky old mansion. $200,000 is stolen from a bank and the loot is believed to be hidden somewhere in the drafty old joint. The usual suspects - dowager old maid, hysterical housekeeper, pretty blond niece and her bank-teller boyfriend (they want to pin the heist on him!), tecs private and public - congregate to shake out the mystery. The sets and miniatures are sumptuous, replete with 20-foot tall doors, subterranean passageways, impossibly large rooms. It's a real eye feast, with a few shadow and shade camera tricks thrown in to keep the visual interest high. A good thing considering that the plot is shaky and the characters underdrawn.
The Alpha disk print is acceptable considering the price. The image is tractable, but there are some frames missing and this is, after all, an unrestored 80-year-old print. The copyright musical backing is, well, problematically okay. It adds a layer of gloominess to things. To my untrained ears it sounded like a church organ playing the same six notes over and over. It's atmospheric rather than emphatic, tracking a general mood rather than specific actions. Overall it seemed appropriate, but the periodic comic scenes needed a different, lighter touch. THE BAT is recommended primarily for those interested in set designs and miniatures, the antecedents of the Batman comic book character, and the evolution of the haunted house movie mysteries.
A Minor Classic of Its Kind
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 04/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"She might not have been a critic's darling, but the reading public loved author Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876-1957.) Her 1907 novel THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE was among her most popular works, and in 1917 Rinehart joined forces with playwright Avery Hopwood to adapt it to the stage. After three years of work and much revision, THE BAT's combination of eccentric characters, spooky effects, slapstick humor and mystery took the New York stage by storm. And in 1926 it became one of the most popular films of the late silent era.
The plot was cliched even in 1920, and considerably more so by 1926--but this is actually part of the film's charm. New York is beset by a vicious killer and brilliant thief called "The Bat," whose crime spree has left police baffled. Cornelia Van Gorder (Emily Fitzroy) and her niece Dale (Jewel Carmen) have leased a mansion in the countryside, but it soon transpires that their choice has been unfortunate: the owner has died, his bank has been robbed, the money is concealed in the house... and The Bat wants it!
Before you can say "It's the BAT!" there are secret passages, suspicious characters, screaming maids, and shots in the dark. According to film lore, THE BAT was actually filmed at night, the better to emphasize the gloomy atmosphere; if so, director Roland West (husband of actress Jewel Carmen) made a good decision here, for the film is memorable for its shadowy look. The miniatures of the opening scenes have been widely praised and the sets are elaborate and extremely well photographed (Cedric Gibbons, no less, was the art director of note); the costume for the elusive Bat is lots of 1920s fun; and the cast is quite good besides.
The cast is particularly noteworthy for its inclusion of Jack Pickford, the wild and scandal plagued brother of silent star Mary Pickford. The combination of sound, drugs, alcohol, and sex would destroy his career before the decade ended, and although Mary Pickford certainly promoted his career he shows that his talents warranted her support. He's quite good. Most memorable, however, is actress Louise Fazenda, who chews scenery as the comically hysterical maid Lizzie--but indeed the entire cast is very fine and you find little of the broad acting style that troubles many silent films.
For many years THE BAT was considered a "lost" film, but not only did a single copy survive, it proves in extremely good condition as well, and the transfer on the Alpha Video DVD release is quite good. What isn't good is the original score, credited to Paul David Bergel. Not only is it utter atrocious in terms of music, it actually works against the film, making the action feel a great deal slower than it really is. Even so, this is the long-thought-lost THE BAT, it's quite good, and you can always turn the sound off!
While it isn't quite as stylish as the slight later THE CAT AND THE CANARY, to which it is often compared, THE BAT was quite an influential film in its own right and will likely charm fans of silent film. It also had a long life: not only would receive at least one major remake, author Mary Roberts Rinehart would actually rewrite the play into yet another novel--and no less than Agatha Christie would borrow a bit of the plot for the legendary play THE MOUSETRAP. Thoroughly enjoyable for fans of silent cinema.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Bob Zeidler, Amazon Reviewer
Greatly Missed and Not Forgotten"
Good story, bad print.
E. D. Deuss | Phoenix, AZ | 09/01/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This 1926 silent film is based on the book and stage play by Mary Roberts Rinehart. A mysterious criminal known as The Bat is stalking a country house. A good story, but the film is run about 20% too fast, which takes any seriousness out of the story. The print quality is fair to poor, and the original music is a real snore. I have written to the outfit that produced this version with my comments, and they acknowledge that they are going to improve their version. I hope so. But in the meantime, one has to be a real movie buff to appreciate the story, what with the technical problems."
Bindy Sue FrÝnkŁnschtein | under the rubble | 11/14/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This excellent silent thriller finds the title character lurking about in a dark mansion, competing with (as well as terrifying) a host of treasure-hunters, cops, and relatives, all looking for $200,000 in embezzled money. Roland West used the eerie sets and lots of humor to great effect. The Menzies miniatures are well done. The actors are fun to watch as they chew, swallow, and digest the scenery! THE BAT is a twisty tale with a surprise ending. See if you can figure out THE BAT's true identity. I thought I knew, but I was way off! Check it out..."