The Vampire Bat (1933)

Vampire Bat

Directed by Frank R. Strayer [Other horror films: The Monster Walks (1932), The Ghost Walks (1934), Condemned to Live (1935)]

I saw this once before, and this black-and-white flick, while not really classic, still holds up pretty well.

Just a few years since Dracula came out, I found it interesting how one of the main conflicts of the film is whether the deaths in a small village can be attributed to supernatural means (a vampire) or more pedestrian means (a serial killer). Of course, folklore runs rampant, and most villagers are terrified of the possibility of vampire attacks. Throw in a town misfit who has a thing for bats, and you have a potentially dangerous situation.

Really, the film is pretty fun, what with these elements coming together with both a solid cast and some occasionally interesting cinematography, creating a somewhat moody and mostly enjoyable film. The biggest problem are the dollops of comedy thrown in, mostly coming from Maude Eburne (who was also one of the actresses who brought down my enjoyment of The Bat Whispers, on a side-note).

The rest of the cast are extraordinarily good, though. Melvyn Douglas (who appeared a year earlier in The Old Dark House, and much later in 1981’s Ghost Story) made for a pretty good protagonist, and his conflicts against the superstitious villagers as to the cause of these deaths were a rather nice touch. Fay Wray (from Doctor X, The Most Dangerous Game, Mystery of the Wax Museum, King Kong, and Black Moon) didn’t really do all that much, but was a very fair piece of eye candy. Dwight Frye was fun to see here, as he played both Fritz from Frankenstein, and more memorably, Renfield from Dracula. He did good in this film, playing the mentally-handicapped village weirdo.

Lionel Atwill, of course, had a fantastic presence, and his various roles in other horror movies only help – his impressive horror resume includes Doctor X, Mystery of the Wax Museum, Murders in the Zoo, Secret of the Blue Room, Mark of the Vampire, Son of Frankenstein, The Gorilla, Man Made Monster, The Mad Doctor of Market Street, The Ghost of Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Doctor Rx, Night Monster, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, Fog Island, and House of Dracula. Certainly not as prolific as Bela Lugosi, but still, he added a lot to both this movie and early genre pieces, as demonstrated by his impressive resume.

Frank Strayer, the director, who did a few other horror films from the time, didn’t really add a lot to the genre, despite how much I enjoy both this one and The Monster Walks. Still, he did well with the limited budget he had, and made a little moody piece, so that’s commendable.

The unnecessary comedic elements aside, The Vampire Bat is a rather solid black-and-white flick, and while it’s nowhere near the classic nature of Frankenstein, Dracula, or any of the Universal films, it’s still a good way to spend an hour, and if a fan of this classic period of horror, I’d recommend giving it a go.

8/10

Secret of the Blue Room (1933)

Secret of the Blue Room

Directed by Kurt Neumann [Other horror films: She Devil (1957), Kronos (1957), The Fly (1958)]

This is a pretty fun flick, solid 30’s horror movie.

The story here is pretty fun, what with a room that, if one sleeps in it, they end up dead. A good plot idea to play with, which leads to a rather satisfying conclusion. At the same time, they could have added a little more meat to the movie, and as it’s only an hour and six minutes, they certainly had some time, should they had wanted to use it. Good video and audio quality, too, of a movie from this time period.

The cast is pretty solid throughout. Lionel Atwill (who appeared in plenty of other horror films, such as The Vampire Bat, Doctor X, Mystery of the Wax Museum, Murders in the Zoo, Mark of the Vampire, and about six or so others) has a good presence here, and really shows why he’s often cast in these types of films. Gloria Stuart did pretty okay here, though she was overwhelmed with the hysterics often placed on female characters back in these films. The fact that she later played the elderly Rose in Titanic is really the most interesting thing about her appearance here. Paul Lukas, who played a rather straight-laced character, gave a great performance also.

Edward Arnold (who did very little for the genre, but has a solid resume overall) had a really fun character with snappy dialogue, and virtually every time he was on-screen, I had a fun time. Onslow Stevens, William Janney, and Robert Barrat all stood out also, and as they make up a large amount of the main characters, that’s only a positive thing.

Kurt Neumann, the director, didn’t do a lot of the genre (aside from directing The Fly, he only did a handful of other horror movies), but this was a pretty good movie. Digestible, enjoyable, and while they could have added a little more to the film, still a good time.

I liked a lot of things about this film – the mystery, the conclusion, the overall story. I certainly feel that this one is overlooked, and I recommend it highly if you’re a fan of those early mystery-horror films that made the 1920’s and 1930’s a special time.

8/10