Bat, The (1959): Wilbur’s Fourth Version of Mystery, Starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead

The Bat, a mystery film, stars Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead.

Playwright Crane Wilbur wrote and directed The Bat, the fourth film adaptation of the story, which began as a 1908 novel “The Circular Staircase” by Mary Roberts Rinehart, which she later adapted (with Avery Hopwood) into the 1920 play “The Bat.”

RKO bought the rights to remake The Bat from star Mary Pickford, who produced the original 1926 film for United Artists.

Agnes Moorehead plays Cornelia Van Gorder, a mystery author who rents a summer home in a small town from the local bank president, John Fleming (Harvey Stephens).

Turning point occurs when $1 million in negotiable securities is missing from the bank, while Fleming is on a hunting trip with his physician, Dr. Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price).

In a cabin in the woods, Fleming confesses to Wells that he stole the securities, and offers to split the money with Wells in return for help faking his own death; he threatens to kill him if he doesn’t cooperate.

When a forest fire breaks out, Wells shoots Fleming and uses the fire to cover up the murder.

Spoiler Alert

Van Gorder investigates the room, realizing there is secret room behind the wall where he was chiseling. She accidentally traps herself in the room, but is freed by Detective Davenport (Robert Williams), who’s assigned to watch the house that evening.

Meanwhile, the Bat kills Wells in his laboratory and leaves a fake suicide note to frame Wells as the Bat.

Upon initial release, The Bat received mixed reviews, with some critics complaining that the tale is too mechanically constructed and not sufficiently scary.

Moorehead, usually assigned to secondary (and one of Oscar’s greatest losers), character roles, here plays the lead self-assuredly.

Curio Items:

The Bat was shown on a double bill with the British Hammer film The Mummy.

Darla Hood, who’s known for playing “Darla” in the Our Gang comedy shorts, is here cast in her final performance as one of the house guests.

Credits:

Running time: 80 Minutes

Release dat: August 9, 1959.

Note

I am grateful to TCM for showing the film on December 6, 2019.