Universal Films virtually created the horror film in the 1930s with films like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, and The Mummy. Soon the popularity of their films spawned numerous copycat productions. This week in from the Vault we take a look back at one of the finest…The Vampire Bat.
The Vampire Bat
Majestic Pictures 1933
Cast: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Dwight Frye, Melvyn Douglas
Running Time: 62 Minutes
When is a Universal Horror film NOT a Universal horror film? The Vampire Bat from little known Majestic Pictures does a great job of capturing the look and feel of classic Universal Horrors of the 1930's. First it had a great cast featuring Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas, and Dwight Frye. Frye plays Herman, a simple-minded fellow who may even be crazier that the Renfield role he played in Dracula just two years earlier. Atwill, of course, was no stranger to Universal Horrors, having co-starred in The Son of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein, and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, to name just a few. Also in the cast is Lionel Belmore as the Burgomeister. Belmore played the exact same role in the Original 1931 Frankenstein.
Several residents of Klineschloss have been killed; drained of their blood and with two puncture wounds in their necks. They immediately attribute the killings to a vampire. The police inspector Karl Brettschneider (Douglas) doesn't believe in vampires though and soon he sets his eyes on Herman Gleib as a suspect due to his affinity for bats. Frye gives one of his great performances in this film...creeping and skulking about, eyes wide in a maniacal grin.
Atwill is the town doctor, Dr. Otto von Niemann and he is assisted by Ruth Bertin (played by a dark haired Fay Wray) who is also in love with Karl. When Herman is killed, and the murders continue, Karl now has to set his target a new and very surprising suspect.
The best way to describe Vampire Bat is as a combination of Dracula especially with Frye in a supporting role. and Frankenstein, as Von Niemann is seeking to create his own new form of life. The fog shrouded, misty little German hamlet is straight out of Universal's horrors and the atmosphere is superb. The only thing that really didn't work was the cheesy love plot between Wray and Douglas. Thankfully that was kept to a minimum. All in all, Vampire Bat was a wonderful horror, well in the tradition of Universals classics.
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