They might as well have named this film How To Make a Cheap Knock-Off of Dracula Without Really Trying. Oh, it’s bad, alright. Not bad by today’s standards, just plain bad. The Vampire Bat is a movie that actually does not contain any scenes of vampirism or a bat (go figure), yet manages to include a culprit very reminiscent of Bela Lugosi, a lunatic Renfield-type character, a secluded and superstitious German village, angry crowds with torches, mind control, a damsel in distress, an annoying hypochondriac old woman who you want to strangle, a doctor trying to find immortality in his futuristic lab, and a strong male lead who manages to save the day at the last moment…all in 64 minutes! At times, it feels like it is going to be a classic, but for most of this very truncated film, nothing happens. There are characters bantering back and forth over whether or not certain murders in a village can really be caused by vampire bats, or worse, an undead being morphed into a vampire bat, and that is the extent of it.
The beginning of the film contains some pretty inventive camera panning and scene-ending cutting techniques, but the viewer will eventually grow tired of seeing the same left-to-right fade-out 10-15 times. At no fault of its own, The Vampire Bat is a victim of excruciatingly bad film care. In some instances, there are cells missing and the screen goes black for a second or two (its hard to believe TCM screened this movie…at 4 a.m…I wonder why…). There is a great deal of grain present on the screen and the audio contains a slight hum and popping sounds from time to time.
That aside, there is simply nothing here worth watching, unless you want to see Fay Wray terrorized by something other than a giant gorilla. Hammy acting, poor direction, and a boring story all take a bite out of this one. Pun intended. Also starring Lionel Atwill, Melvyn Douglas, and Maude Eburne. Directed by Frank R. Strayer. 5 out of 10 stars.