Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Bat (1959)

The people behind this film appear to have adopted the eminently sensible philosophy that if one is going to make a schlocky murder mystery, one should go all in.  The killer should have a goofy alias, and an idiosyncratic method of killing.  There should be plenty of potential suspects, a raft of dark secrets and odd habits, a hidden room or two, and - of course, though it's not unheard of for this to be missed - plenty of murders.

The Bat delivers on all these fronts.  Our villain's "nom de mort" is right there in the title of the film, and he dispatches his victims by tearing out their throats with an iron-clawed glove.  It's not particularly bat-like, perhaps, but it is memorable.  As for the other requirements, they are all present as well, as you'll see.

The film begins with a mystery novelist renting a summer home while the owner is off in the forest on a hunting trip.  Said owner is the manager of the regional bank; a bank which is about to be in a world of trouble when it emerges that a million dollars of valuables has been stolen from its safe deposit boxes.

We quickly learn that it was the absent manager who is the thief, because he proposes a murderous scheme to his doctor (who is with him on the hunting trip).  They will kill their guide in such a way that the corpse cannot be identified, then the doctor will report the dead man to be the manager, and they can split the ill-gotten proceeds.  The manager feels safe in making the offer because (a) he has a gun ready and (b) only he knows where the money is - a hidden room in his home.

What the manager hasn't banked on is that the doctor might know of the hidden room, and might be quicker on the trigger than he is.  Looks like the Doc will indeed be reporting his death - if just won't be falsely.

Shortly thereafter, the Bat begins prowling around the dead man's estate.  Is it the Doctor, looking for the hidden room?  Is it the mystery author's new butler, whom she has known for only a short while, and whom may have a criminal record?  Or is it one of the other suspects the film will offer up (there are four plausible ones, overall)?

One thing's for sure, you can be confident that the bank manager will not be the last person to die in this entertainingly melodramatic little number.

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