Variations on a theme 2 “The Bat” 1959
Cornelia Van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead) is a mystery author who along with her maid/companion Lizzie (Lenita Lane) rents a mansion for the summer in a small town from local bank president John Fleming (Harvey Stephens). Fleming has embezzled over a million dollars in negotiable securities. He tries to enlist the aid of Dr. Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price) in faking his death. Instead Dr. Wells kills Mr. Fleming. He uses a nearby wild fire to cover up the murder. Before he is killed Fleming tells Wells that he hid the securities in the house Ms. Van Gorder rented.
Mark Fleming (John Bryant) is the nephew and heir of John Fleming. He also thinks that maybe the securities are hidden in the house. Victor Bailey (Mike Steele) has been blamed for the theft of the securities. His wife Dale (Elaine Edwards) believes he is innocent.
Meanwhile, there have been some murders in the area committed by someone called “The Bat”. The murders have terrorized everyone in the area. Most of the servants have quit due to the house being so isolated. Van Gorder and Lizzie are virtually alone in the huge house. Police Lieutenant Andy Anderson (Gavin Gordon) tries to keep an eye on the house and so does Dr. Wells. It seems that everyone is interested in what is going on in this lonely mansion. “The Bat” was released in 1959 and was directed by Crane Wilbur. It is a comedy/mystery. This version is a little different from the 1930 version but it is still an ‘Old Dark House’ type mystery. There are a lot suspects and a couple red herrings. And of course one big bat that likes to kill. Being a fan of ‘Old Dark House’ mysteries I enjoyed it.
Agness Moorehead is good in her starring role. Vincent Price is a wonderfully mysterious suspect. I liked this version as much as I liked the 1930 version.
Some history on the story: In 1908 Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote “The Circular Staircase”. In 1915 a silent movie was made based on Mary’s book by Selig Polyscope Company. “The film was also called “The Circular Staircase”. It was the first feature length adaptation of the story. The film has since been lost. In 1920 Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood adapted the book into a three act play called “The Bat”. It was a Broadway hit. The play was turned into a silent movie in 1926 and was again called “The Bat”. It was remade in 1930 as a “talkie” and renamed “The Bat Whispers”. The story was once again remade in 1959 and called “The Bat”. The 1959 version starred Vincent Price and Agness Moorehead. It has also been adapted for television several times.