The Vampire Bat (1933)
Directed by: Frank R. Strayer
Written by: Edward T. Lowe Jr
Starring: Lionel Atwill, Fay Reagan, Melvyn Douglas
The Vampire Bat is actually one of my favorite Lionel Atwill movies and is a great little gem in regards to 1930s horror. Utilizing some great actors, creepy atmosphere, fantastic sets, and some dash's of funny humor. I`ve also got to say its one of the best movies in the public domain; along side films such as White Zombie, Carnival of Souls, and of course Night of the Living Dead. Of course not as good as those movie but its up there with them.
The movie is set in the village of Klineschloss were locals are scared stiff of a "vampire" who is killing villagers and then draining them dry of their blood. This fear of the killer becomes so strong the people in the village start to become hysterical, which only gets worse when the Burgomaster and town doctor Otto Von Niemann (Lionel Atwill) declare it is officially a epidemic of vampirism. Only police inspector Karl Brettshneider remains skeptical of the "vampirism theory", though with the increasing body count and mounting evidence towards vampirism he doesn't know what to believe. Up until the epic and rather surprising climax were everything is reveled.
One thing about The Vampire Bat is that its one of the best independent horror films of the 30`s. The sets alone are fantastic, though that mostly has to do with the fact that they were getting to use Universals European village sets at night when Universal wasn't using them, in fact if you think Lionel Atwills office looks familiar its because its the same interior sets from Universals "The Old Dark House". On top of having great set design director Strayer does a marvelous job at photographing the scenes and creating this great unique atmosphere that echoes influence from German Expression and other Universal horror films from that period. The point i`m trying to get at is it doesn't feel like a "cheap quikie" like it could have been, instead it utilizes all its resources and crafts a inspired period piece that holds up to films like Dracula and Frankenstein despite only having a fraction of the budget that they had.
Not mention it has a really good cast. With the always great Lionel Atwill as the town doctor, Fay Wray from King Kong fame as his niece, and future Oscar winner Melvyn Douglas as police inspector Karl, Lionel Belmore who was the Burgomaster in Frankenstein plays the Burgomaster in this film (so they were recycling Universal sets as well as supporting actors I guess) and good ole Dwight Frye plays the slow odd Herman Gleib whose made a scapegoat for the killings, oh and not mention Robert Frazer from White Zombie has a small role in this movie as well. The cast alone is reason enough to check out this movie and if you like Lionel Atwill and haven't seen this movie there's even more reason now to check it out, cause personally its one of my favorites of his.
Altogether The Vampire Bat is a great, well made early 30`s independent horror movie. Its a film that so easily could have been bad but wasn't and since its a "spooky old dark house" and "bats flying everywhere" type movie its a perfect movie for Halloween time. So if your a classic horror fan, I definitely recommend giving The Vampire Bat a chance.