“Goodnight gentlemen. Don’t let the vampire get you.”
Before you judge and laugh just looking at the title and think that it is a really bad 1930s “horror” let me assure you The Vampire Bat is not what you may be thinking. The story is actually pretty good.
The town of Klineschloss has been turned upside down. Many of the villagers have been found dead from blood loss and two puncture wounds on the side of their necks making it look as if a vampire has killed them. Detective Karl Brettschneider (Melvyn Douglas) sits in on a meeting at the burgermeister’s. Three of the men at the meeting believe the work to be of a vampire bat especially now that there have been an influx of bats hanging around as well as old town records indicate a case of vampirism. Karl will not hear of it he knows there is some logical explanation for the killings.
An old lady known for selling apples has apparently been attacked by the vampire bat. She is frightened beyond measure. Dr. Otto von Niemann (Lionel Atwill) has been called in to try to calm her. A young man named Hermann comes in the room. He has the mind of a child; he walks around the town at night and plays with the bats. Hermann does this innocently since he knows no better. The villagers think he is working with the devil and killing all the people. The apple lady latter that night is killed. Another local is convinced that Hermann is going to kill him because he told the police about him. The next day the man is found dead and now the whole town is after Hermann.
Karl is seeing Dr. Niemann’s assistant Ruth (Fay Wray). She lives with the doctor, her aunt, and a maid. The morning when the man’s body is found Hermann sneaks into the doctor’s garden to get some food set up on a table. The aunt comes back from somewhere and sees Hermann. The aunt has no idea who Hermann is. Ruth, Karl, and the doctor sit in his office when news comes that the town is up in arms over Hermann.
The men from the town in fear chase after Hermann. They chase him into a cave where he falls into a cavern and dies.
That night Dr. von Niemann’s maid is found dead in her bed. If Hermann is dead who has killed the maid? The conclusion (not the very ending) is really good and you can definitely tell it is a pre-code film.
I really liked the story. It is a very good mix of old folklore and science fiction. The acting was not bad either. Fay Wray was great (and can I add very pretty). She had some over the top facial expressions but she was able to say so much more than needed. Melvyn Douglas at the end of the film was awesome. Lionel Atwill is just the man he is so good at being creepy and mysterious and just had the mannerisms for this kind (and the many others like this he made) of film. The Vampire Bat was made to take advantage of Atwill and Wray being in a film together since their film Dr. X had been a hit and Mystery at the Wax Museum was being promoted (I really like both of these films check them out). The only character that got on my nerves and was totally unnecessary in many of the scenes was the aunt she was such a pain.
Although the title may sound corny trust me when I say The Vampire Bat is a good film. This film is one of the reasons why I find Golden Era films and their stories to be so much better than today. As I said the story is a very good as well as interesting mix of science fiction. The Vampire Bat could never be pulled off today because the story is a bit dated but for 1933 it worked perfectly.
Definitely see The Vampire Bat for the story and the cast. Youtube has the film in full just type in the title and the date.