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THE BAT ($25) may not be great cinema, but this old chestnut turns out to be a whole lot of fun on DVD. Because of the presence of horror icon Vincent Price, many people would just assume that THE BAT is a horror movie. Actually, this movie is a who-done-it, which also happens to be a remake of 1930ís THE BAT WHISPERS. There is another thing one should know about this edition of THE BAT. Even though Vincent Priceís face is plastered on the cover of the DVDís jacket, he isnít the star of the film, although he does have a sizable role, playing one of the movieís many red herrings. Agnes Moorehead is the actual star of THE BAT and seems to be having a grand old time playing mystery writer Cornelia van Gorder.

The plot of THE BAT concerns a bank robbery, the search for the missing money and a serial killer known as The Bat, who dresses all in black and rips out peoples throats with a steel taloned leather glove. Everyone and everything converges at the spooky old mansion that Cornelia van Gorder has rented for the summer from the nephew of the vacationing bank president. Cornelia and her longtime maid Lizzie Allen (Lenita Lane) find themselves left alone in the mansion after the rest of the staff quits, due to the strange noises that they claim to have heard during the night. Unfortunately, The Bat takes advantage of the situation and breaks into the mansion, terrorizing both women. The police are able to scare off The Bat on the first evening, although their continued presence doesnít deter the killerís return visits to the mansion, nor do they stop the murders that ensue. As I stated above, THE BAT is a whole lot of fun to watch and the mystery should keep one guessing who done it for the filmís brief 80 minute running time. The cast of THE BAT also includes Gavin Gordon, Elaine Edwards, John Sutton, Darla Hood, Riza Royce, Robert Williams and John Bryant.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has done a really nice job with their DVD edition of THE BAT. The black and white full frame presentation is very satisfying, although I noticed quite a bit of headroom above the characters, which indicates the film could have been matted down for a wide screen presentation. Even without the theatrical matte, the entire width of the frame is on display, so the transfer does not present any severe compositional compromises. The black and white transfer is a knockout, with everything appearing crisp and very well defined. There is almost no film grain present in the image, plus the element utilized for the transfer displays very few blemishes. The blacks are almost always a perfect inky black, while the whites appear bright and clean. Shadow detail is quite good, plus the picture has genuine depth thanks to the excellent film elements and first rate transfer. Contrast is very strong and one will notice many distinct levels of gray between the blacks and the whites. There is no evidence of digital compression artifacts on this well authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack holds up well for a film that just over 40 years old. There are the expected frequency limitations, but the sound never becomes distorted. Dialogue is pretty clean and always intelligible. A minor hiss can be heard at higher volume levels, but this is the only appreciable flaw that I can find in an otherwise solid soundtrack. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection feature, as well as a theatrical trailer.

If old mystery movies are your cup of tea, then THE BAT is a DVD worth investigating. Fans of Vincent Price and Agnes Moorhead will want to go ahead and add this disc to their collections.


The Bat (1959)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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