Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Vampire Bat


This was a weird movie, but I think I mean that in a good way. For one thing, it's a 1933 horror movie and it's got Fay Wray, but she never screams. That seems like an odd decision, since two movies later, she'd do some of the all-time great screaming in King Kong. I guess it's possible that no one knew yet that she could scream, but they should have at least tried her out. And her previous movie was The Most Dangerous Game; doesn't she scream in that? Some of the other women do some acceptable screaming and fainting, but they're more of the matronly Margaret Dumont gasp-scream-collapse school. There's onl one Young Lady in the movie, and I say she should have done some screaming.

The plot of the movie is fairly straightforward: we're in a tiny Germanic town (where most of the people have British accents) and people have been turning up dead, drained of blood, with tiny puncture wounds in their necks. And there are a lot of bats around. Naturally, everyone figures it's probably vampires, although the Head Scientist Guy disagrees. And specifically, everyone thinks it was probably Herman, the creepy guy who doesn't talk right (his accent is kind of German) and talks about how much he loves the bats because they're soft like kittens. Herman is played by Dwight Frye, who played Renfield in the Lugosi Dracula, Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon, and was also in Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, and the Claude Rains Invisible Man. He's a lot of fun.

Anyway, after about eight weeks of one victim a week, the villagers hunt down Herman (with torches, but no pitchforks), track him down to a cave that looks suspiciously like the cave in Robot Monster, and pound a stake through his heart. Bloodthirsty lot, aren't they?

Anyway, that fails to stop the killings, and it turns out (here comes the twist!) that it's not a Horror film after all. It's a sci-fi film! One of the scientists in town has created life in the form of a small, pulsating sponge, and he needs blood to keep it alive. So he's been killing one person a week, which seems like an awful lot of blood for something about the size of a brick. The laboratory was very nice, with beakers and tubes and things bubbling merrily away.

The ending was extremely odd, in my opinion. There's this comic relief woman who's a hypochondriac. She's the one who did the gasp-scream-collapse earlier. And right after the Evil Mad Scientist has been shot, putting an end to his Brutal Reign of Terror, there's a brief scene about the hypochondriac lady. And we all have a hearty laugh, and the movie ends. It just seemed jarring to have the end of the movie be one of those Love Boat scenes where everybody laughs, since we just had a horror/sci-fi ending.

Having said that, I enjoyed it. It was one hour and fifteen minutes of no-fooling-around 1933-style fun!

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