Movies, Reviews

‘The Bat’ (1959): The Film Detective Special Edition Blu-ray Review

As a lifelong fan of Vincent Price, there are surprisingly still a handful of his works I still haven’t seen, which is why when I was allowed the opportunity to receive an advanced copy of The Film Detective’s new special edition release of “The Bat” on Blu-ray I jumped at the opportunity.

Written and directed by Crane Wilbur, “The Bat” is more a whodunit thriller than an actual horror movie. It is based on the 1907 serialized novel, “The Circular Staircase” by Mary Roberts Rinehart. In it, a female mystery novelist named Cornelia Van Gorder, played by Agnes Moorehead (“Bewitched”), rents a property in search of a calm environment to write her next novel. Unfortunately, the home has a bit of a reputation and was the location of several violent murders by a dark figure known as “The Bat.” It also winds up at the heart of a high-profile embezzlement investigation during the author’s stay. When sightings of The Bat and a search for embezzled money intensify on the property, Van Gorder is forced to try and solve a mystery similar to the ones she writes about before anyone else winds up dead.

The Bat Special Edition Blu-ray cover

The Film Detective has done an incredible job restoring this film from original 35mm archival elements and presenting it in a stunning 1.85:1 black and white presentation with beautiful clarity, contrast, and pristine audio to match. The film looks and sounds incredible, with few, if any, noticeable lines, scratches, or specs in the presentation.

The Special Edition Blu-ray comes with a handful of special features that include a booklet featuring a companion essay, “The Case of the Forgotten Author.” Written by professor and film scholar Jason A. Ney, the essay tells the story of author Mary Roberts Rinehart and the various iterations of “The Bat” that were born of her “The Circular Staircase,” and her eventual demise to obscurity.

On the disc, you’ll find a bonus featurette, “The Case for Crane Wilbur,” from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures that reflects on the career of “The Bat” director and screenwriter. As someone who wasn’t previously familiar with Wilbur, it was fascinating to see the breadth of his work, which included 1953’s “House of Wax,” also starring Vincent Price.

As a Price fan, I was especially interested in the nine exclusive archival radio re-broadcast episodes featuring the iconic Price in everything from the popular radio drama “Suspense,” to a comedic performance for CBS Radio Workshop in “Speaking of Cinderella.” Like the film, the restored audio of these broadcasts is incredibly clear. Each broadcast plays over an animated “The Bat” themed screen and it was great to hear Price in radio drama’s that I otherwise probably never would have heard.

If you’re a Vincent Price completist, I would highly recommend picking this up when it’s released, though I will say Price is not really the star of this one. Agnes Moorehead and co-star Darla Hood really are the heart of this film, and while Price has plenty of screen time, it’s more in a supporting role. That said, even without Price at the heart of the film, I still really enjoyed the film, and as mentioned previously, the video and audio quality far surpassed my expectations.

“The Bat” will be available on Special Edition Blu-ray on October 25. Fans can secure a copy now by pre-ordering fromĀ Amazon.

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