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"The Vampire Bat" (1933)


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While reviewing TCM's schedule for the upcoming week, I noticed that 1933's The Vampire Bat is being shown at 4AM ET on Saturday, April 4th. Which means that this movie is, in reality, being shown on Easter Sunday for the viewers within the contiguous United States. So a tip of the hat to the TCM programmer who had the wit to air a vampire-themed movie on the day that so many of us recognize as the one on which someone entirely different rose from the dead.


Is The Vampire Bat a classic? No. And can I honestly recommend to anyone that it is worth staying up late for or getting up early for? Again, no. But it is a fun movie which can be knocked off in about an hour. And it appears to be readily available on YouTube and on at least one of the free Roku movie channels (a true sign of a movie that has fallen into the public domain). So TCM's only advantage is that it may be providing a better print.


Although The Vampire Bat marks the third and final pairing of Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray, this movie does not compare to either of their previous two-color Technicolor movies from Warner Bros., Doctor X and Mystery of the Wax Museum (Mystery of the Wax Museum may have been released after The Vampire Bat, but it was filmed earlier.). Instead, it is very reminiscent of a Universal horror movie.


Beyond Lionel Atwill, the cast also includes Dwight Frye in a role that recalls his portrayal of Renfield from Dracula. And Lionel Belmore who portrays a bürgermeister in Frankenstein and who portrays a (what else) bürgermeister in The Vampire Bat. Plus Melvyn Douglas who was previously in The Old Dark House.


And, going behind-the-scenes, Charles D. Hall is credited as the art director for The Vampire Bat (although they omitted his first name in this one). And he is also credited as the art director for Dracula, Frankenstein, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Invisible Man, The Black Cat, and The Bride of Frankenstein. Is it any wonder that The Vampire Bat has a similar look.


Also similar to Dracula, music only plays over the opening credits (although in this case we don't get "Swan Lake") and the background for these credits is a bat. And I suspect that we hear the same wolf with the same howl from that earlier movie. Plus those torch-wielding villagers from Frankenstein even make an appearance.


Heck, Universal itself reused the surname for the character that Lionel Atwill portrayed, Niemann, for their House of Frankenstein released eleven years later.


Frankly, all The Vampire Bat needs to complete its masquerade would be to open with a propeller-driven plane circling a spinning globe.


The big question is whether anyone else finds it odd to see Fay Wray as a brunette. I know that was her natural color. But when you've seen King Kong as many times as I had, she'll always be a blonde.

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