Gallows Humor: “The Bat” (1926)

bat1      “The Bat” is a rather creaky manor house murder mystery play by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood, substantially derived from Rinehart’s 1908 novel The Circular Staircase with the embellishment of a costumed super-criminal, all of which has bat7been excitingly enlivened in it’s 1926 silent film incarnation by director/screenwriting adapter Roland West who blends a modernistic aesthetic eye to the proceedings (the director would revisit the material four years later for a sound and 65mm widescreen remake entitled “The Bat Whispers”), which seems to be a remarkably fertile source of inspiration both attributed (the “Batman” comic book) and unrecognized (parts of the the film feel uncannily prescient of much of the visual design of Fritz Lang’s 1928 “Spione”): a blazingbatOS crazy quilt of expressionism and traditional Gothic elements, eccentric cinematic flourish and might-have-been stagnant stage bound gigantism. If the nature of the mystery makes for less than profoundly nourishing material, director West amply demonstrates how the tools of the cinema applied with energetic exuberance might elevate the threateningly static and in his capable hands this standard dark house mystery seems to rely as much on the timely exit and entrance of characters from the room as much as a Feydeau bedroom farce (“The Bat” predating Paul Leni’s expressionistic horror-comedy “The Cat and the Canary” by a year), providing a template for directors to follow in a filmed genre that found its initial expression with Cecil B. DeMille’s 1914 “The Ghost Breaker” and would later become a reliable source of often blackly comic entertainment that would extend through the films of William Castle and the 1960’s Gothics of Robert Aldrich.

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About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in acting, books, comedy, crime, Edgar Allan Poe, Film Reviews, movie reviews, Movies, Mystery, Reviews, silent movies, theater, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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