The Vampire Bat


Lionel Atwill appeared in several quality genre pictures throughout the 30's and 40's before his untimely death in 1946. I'm starting to put him on a pedestal in my head, the same pedestal that horror greats Karloff and Lugosi occupy. He took every role seriously, even the ones that most audiences would soon forget. In my opinion, that's the mark of a regal, haughty thespian. The Vampire Bat sees Atwill brooding and scowling as a mad scientist who attributes his crimes to an undead ghoul. Since his character is a well-respected chemist, the authorities go along with his theories of vampirism. Unfortunately for Dr. Generic Scientist, a diffident Fay Wray overhears him linking up with his imposing subordinate by means of telepathy.

The "telepathy" angle is never explained. Now that I think about it, the details of Atwill's experiments are never explained either. I'm not bothering with character names because this isn't the kind of movie that you analyze. It's the kind of movie that you watch, kind of enjoy, and then blot out from your memory. I liked the shadowy photography. Wray and Atwill bounce off of each other well when they're on screen together. Dwight Frye gives a humorous performance as a bat-canonizing freak. How did he get typecast as a loon who likes to play with dead critters? I don't get it. Nonetheless, the bits of black comedy involving Frye succeed in punching up the mood.

If I had to describe The Vampire Bat in one word, that word would be lukewarm. To see Atwill really shine, watch Mystery of the Wax Museum or the lesser-known The Mad Doctor of Market Street.

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