The Bat (1959) starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead. Directed by Crane Wilbur
Agnes Moorhead (known best by most people as the witchy mother of Samantha Stephens in “Bewitched”) plays Cornelia Van Gorder, a Mystery writer who has rented a supposedly haunted mansion called “The Oaks”. Some years ago, the home was the scene of several violent and unsolved murders committed by someone dubbed “The Bat”, a man dressed in black, with no face and razor sharp fingernails. Cornelia is fascinated by the whole idea of it and refuses to leave despite the warnings. It soon comes to light that the owner of “The Oaks”, John Flemming, has embezzled a million dollars from the bank he works for. But, when he tries to convince his friend Dr. Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price) to help him retrieve the hidden stash, Wells isn’t too keen on sharing now that he knows what’s going on and kills Flemming, successfully making it look like an accident.
And here begins the mystery. Who is “The Bat” and can he find and get away with the missing million before anyone reveals his identity? We quickly learn that Dr. Wells has a keen interest and understanding of bats and we know he has the capacity for murder. The first time we see him in his office, he’s conducting some sort of research on a cage full of the tiny creatures. Or, maybe “The Bat” is Cornelia’s chauffeur-turned-butler whom the local police detective recognizes from a wanted poster years ago. Then, there’s John Flemming’s own nephew who has inherited his uncle’s estate, but has no idea where the loot is hidden. Even the head detective in charge of the case seems suspect. There are plenty of hints and red herrings to keep the viewer guessing and second guessing.
As a fan of the murder-mystery and writer of two such tomes, I really enjoyed this movie. And with stars like Price and Moorehead adding their own special style and senses of humor to it, you can’t go wrong. I was able to figure out the identity of The Bat before the ending, but even as the movie went on and I thought I knew, I also wondered if I was right, too, until the very end and all is revealed.
A great movie to watch at home with a tub of popcorn and a beer. Not overly frightening, but suspenseful, funny, and completely engaging.