The Bat Whispers

Overview

Magnificently restored by UCLA to its original "Grandeur" wide-screen format The Bat Whispers may not be a cinematic masterpiece but is certainly worth a second look. Opening with a series of flamboyant tracking shots, director Roland West soon enough settles down to the usual "Old House" shenanigans of sliding panels, mysterious bumps in the night, crawling hands, thunder and lightning (sounding more like an earthquake, incidentally, than a storm), etc. An official remake of the 1926 The Bat (which was itself ...
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Overview

Magnificently restored by UCLA to its original "Grandeur" wide-screen format The Bat Whispers may not be a cinematic masterpiece but is certainly worth a second look. Opening with a series of flamboyant tracking shots, director Roland West soon enough settles down to the usual "Old House" shenanigans of sliding panels, mysterious bumps in the night, crawling hands, thunder and lightning (sounding more like an earthquake, incidentally, than a storm), etc. An official remake of the 1926 The Bat (which was itself based on an Avery Hopwood play), The Bat Whispers owed just as much to The Cat and the Canary (1927), the true grand-daddy of all haunted house mysteries. After taunting the New York City police a final time, the notorious criminal "The Bat" announces his retirement to the country. Meanwhile, in said country wealthy spinster Cornelia Van Gorder (Grayce Hampton is leasing the Courtleigh Fleming estate. The news of "The Bat" and the simultaneous disappearance of cashier Brooks Bailey (William Bakewell) shortly after a robbery at the Fleming bank set in motion a series of troubling events -- troubling especially for Miss Van Gorder's eternally frightened maid Lizzie (Maude Eburne). The missing Brooks Bailey shows up soon enough courtesy of Van Gorder's pretty niece Dale (Una Merkel), who persuades the young man to impersonate a gardener -- a disguise that fools no one. There is a mysterious doctor who speaks with an accent (Gustav von Seyffertitz); an equally alarming caretaker (Spencer Charters),; a piece of missing blueprint that leads to a secret room; and, of course, "The Bat," who appears to be prowling the estate as well. Enter into all this Detective Anderson (Chester Morris), who in his unique gritty way gets to the bottom of things. The "Grandeur" wide-screen format was lost on most movie-goers when the film premiered in late November of 1930. Exhibitors who had just spent fortunes rigging their theaters for sound were of course loath to spend even more on yet another "newfangled" invention. Of course, some of cinematographer Robert H. Planck's more breathtaking shots of "The Bat" climbing towering skyscrapers were lost in the standard 35mm prints. But cartoonist Bob Kane reportedly had this film in mind when he nine years later created his eternally popular comic-strip hero Batman. A sadly neglected craftsman, Roland West directed only 11 films before he retired at the age of 44. West (who also directed the 1926 The Bat co-starring his then-wife Jewel Carmen as the imperiled niece) left films to run a Santa Monica café with girlfriend Thelma Todd. He was questioned by the authorities but was apparently never a suspect in Todd's mysterious death in December of 1935.
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Special Features

[None specified]
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
The Bat Whispers is today of more interest as an example of a director struggling against the visual straitjacket of the early "talkie" cameras than as a mystery/thriller. Not that Bat is without value simply as a film; it's just that the elements on display in Bat's script have become awfully familiar down through the years. (Truth to tell, even in 1930, some of these conventions were beginning to wear out their welcome a bit.) Modern audiences will find the plotting predictable, the dialogue hokey and the acting for the most part more than a bit over the top; even so, there's some peculiar (if decidedly slight) appeal in going through these well worn paces at this early stage of the game. More intriguing is Roland West's direction. West, working with Ray June and Robert Planck as cinematographers, does his best to keep his camera moving. He's most successful in scenes with no dialogue, and takes full advantage of such moments to create some tracking shots that are sheer delights. Given half a chance, he lets the camera spill all over a scene, creating much more atmosphere and tension than the screenplay can. Bat comes in two versions, one utilizing a new widescreen technique, than other a standard screen size; the former is far preferable and gives a much better idea of what West was capable of.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/30/1999
  • UPC: 014381592122
  • Original Release: 1930
  • Rating:

  • Source: Image Entertainment
  • Presentation: Black & White / Wide Screen / Dolby 5.1 / Mono
  • Sound: Dolby Digital, monaural
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:25:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Spencer Charters The Caretaker
Chester Morris Detective Anderson
Una Merkel Dale Van Gorder
William Bakewell Brook
Chance Ward Police lieutenant
Gustav von Seyffertitz Dr. Venrees
Richard Tucker Mr. Bell
Wilson Benge The Butler
Ben Bard The Unknown
Charles Dow Clark Detective Jones
Sidney D'Albrook Police sergeant
Maude Eburne Lizzie Allen
Grayce Hampton Cornelia van Gorder
Hugh Huntley Richard Fleming
DeWitt Jennings Police captain
Technical Credits
Roland West Director, Screenwriter, Producer
Ray June Cinematographer
Robert Planck Cinematographer
Avery Hopwood Screenwriter
Mary Roberts Rinehart Screenwriter
James Smith Editor
Joseph M. Schenck Producer
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
0. 65mm Letterbox Version: Chapter Listings
1. Main Title; To Catch a Bat [9:29]
2. Home Alone? [6:47]
3. The New Gardener [8:21]
4. Warning [7:00]
5. Getting the Runaround [7:01]
6. A Shot in the Dark [5:30]
7. Moving Pictures & Missing Paper [8:16]
8. No Escape [5:40]
9. Finding the Safe [6:13]
10. Going Batty [9:05]
11. Leave It to Lizzie [9:00]
12. A Final Promise [2:36]
0. 35mm Flat Version: Chapter Listings
1. Main Title; To Catch a Bat [10:06]
2. Home Alone? [6:56]
3. The New Gardener [8:14]
4. Warning [7:05]
5. Getting the Runaround [6:45]
6. A Shot in the Dark [5:34]
7. Moving Pictures & Missing Paper [7:54]
8. No Escape [5:46]
9. Finding the Safe [6:20]
10. Going Batty [8:46]
11. Leave it to Lizzie [8:30]
12. A Final Promise [2:39]
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Menu

Side #1 --
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