The Vampire Bat

Director: Frank R. Strayer

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The Vampire BatA series of murders in a German village have been blamed on a vampire, as the bodies have all been drained of blood, & the village has been plagued with large bats, in The Vampire Bat (1933).

The locals become convinced the vampire is Hermann, the village idiot, who keeps saying stuff like, "Bats not bad. Soft like cat," or "Bats good. Bats no hurt Herman." He keeps tame bats in his pockets & his garret. The most tragic thing in this short feature (not quite a full hour's length) is the hounding of Herman by his fellow villagers.

Herman's eccentricity & simplemindedness make him the only truly likeable character here. He's most ably played by the legendary character actor Dwight Frye, Renfield in the original Dracula (1931) & hunchback Fritz in Frankenstein (1931).

Maude EburneComic relief is provided by Canadian character actor Maude Eburne as the elderly hypochondriac. She lends very little to the story proper, & indeed, every time she walks on stage the story stops while she performs shtick. But in a film as slight as The Vampire Bat pointless interludes can be enjoyable, & it is entertaining to see Maude representing a type of stage comedy already old-fashioned in her day.

The true villain is played by Lionel Atwill who uses local superstition to cover up his own crimes. What he is up to is so fantastically stupid that it makes this film almost wonderful, even if only in a laughable way.

Dr. Otto von Niemann is keeping a ball of artificial flesh alive in an aquarium in his secret laboratory. This wad of flesh is evidently an early stage in his attempt to create new life. The minimalist mad-scientist-lab with the eerily lit aquarium is kind of cool even if the lump of flesh does look like an ordinary bath sponge.

The bath sponge needs a continuous supply of blood for its feed, so Dr. von Niemann drugs victims selected while he makes his doctorly house-calls as a family physician, steals them away unconscious to his lab by night, drains them of blood, & returns them to their beds where they grow weaker after each bleeding & eventually die, the puncture marks of his draining equipment looking like vampire attacks.

He's assisted by his henchman Emil (Robert Frazer) over whom he has telepathic control, & Dr. von Niemann sure should've been more careful when Emil was restored to his wits angrily guilt-ridden over the crimes he was forced to assist.

The deaths are investigated by Carl (Melvyn Douglas) who doesn't quite believe in vampires but artificial flesh & a mind-controlled minion are perhaps more in keeping with reality. The leading lady is Fay Wray as Ruth, who somehow doesn't quite shine outside of King Kong's grubby mitts.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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