The Bat (1926)

THE BAT (1926)
Article #1308 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-13-2004
Posting Date: 3-12-2005
Directed by Roland West
Featuring Jack Pickford, Louise Fazenda, Eddie Gribbon

A murderous bank robber known as “The Bat” is loose in a country estate, and the residents believe he may be hiding in a hidden room in the mansion.

THE BAT is one of the cornerstones of the whole “Old Dark House” genre, but oddly enough, I had a little trouble warming up to it. I’d seen its remake THE BAT WHISPERS (with the same director) twice, and though I seemed to like it well enough the first time I saw it, I was very bored the second time. This boredom almost repeated itself on my first viewing of the original here, but I ended up warming up to it as it progressed, and I believe this might be due to the fact that I didn’t find myself struggling with the creakiness of an early talkie. Visually, this is one of the finest looking of the “Old Dark House” movies; the excellent Art Design by William Cameron Menzies is very effective, and even though the miniatures do look like miniatures, they are still evocative and moody. The movie starts out very well indeed, with an audacious robbery-murder; my problems usually start when the action moves to the country estate. Two problems I had with the movie are that I don’t think it does a good job introducing its various characters (it takes longer to sort out who’s who than it should), and that it puts too much emphasis on the comic-relief maid, who spends all of her time either looking scared or accusing people of being “The Bat”. However, the confusing middle section eventually gives way to the more focused final third of the movie, which is quite fun. The soundtrack is marvelously moody, but this in itself is a bit problematic; since the movie is at least partially a comedy, it should have a lightness of touch at times that it doesn’t have.

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