Plot: A killer is stalking the streets of a small village, but the townsfolk are more shaken up than ever before. As if a murderer on the loose wasn’t enough, rumors abound of the killer being a vampire. After all, the victims have telltale puncture wounds and seem to be drained of blood, so it all makes sense. Even the town doctor Dr. Otto von Neimann (Lionel Atwill) has to admit there could be a chance of vampirism, as he has heard about such incidents elsewhere in the medical world. While most people have given over to these claims of vampires and bats, but Karl (Melvyn Douglas) has other ideas and since he is a police detective, he tends to lean on facts over gossip. As more victims are found, the village is stricken with fear and Karl feels the pressure to end this madness, vampire or not. One suspects seems to emerge that fits all the profiles, an odd man named Herman (Dwight Frye). He is known around the village for his eccentric habits and happens to love bats, so he arouses suspicion. But no matter who is behind the murders, does any of it involve the mythical vampires?
Entertainment Value: A tale of romance, mystery, and potential vampires, The Vampire Bat offers up classic horror chills. While not on par with Universal’s horror output of the time, this is fun b movie that offers solid entertainment. The story is fine, with a village up in arms over murders and rumors of vampires, while some locals start to stand out as potential suspects. The tone here is mostly light and brisk, so don’t expect sheer terror or overly tense moments. There is some nice melodrama here and there, but the movie is content to rarely dial up the horror that much. The cast is what propels the movie, with a noteworthy lineup that turns in solid work. Melvyn Douglas, Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill, and even Dwight Frye appear in prominent roles, while Maude Eburne supplies some comic relief that rarely misses the mark. I love the visuals and atmosphere here, with the stark contrast and skilled lighting, the movie just looks quite cool. Some versions offer blasts of fiery color during a scene that involves torches and this trick is effective, adding some great visual impact and heightening the tension. Great visuals and solid entertainment, The Vampire Bat is good fun and worth a look.
No nakedness. No blood either, but that’s to be expected from classic horror like this, so no worries. As I said above, the emphasis here is on atmosphere over bloodshed or jump scares. And there’s such a light tone to the whole experience, acts of on screen violence would be jarring, to say the least. The horror element is strong however, through the shadowy visuals and some creepy performances. On the dialogue front, melodrama is on the menu and that gives us some humorous moments. I love overly the serious type of performances and we have some of that here, to be sure. By the same token, the movie has a good sense of humor too, so there’s some good lines from that as well. I think the hypochondriac old woman steals some scenes, for example. Aside from Frye’s wild ass performance, The Vampire Bat is pretty standard classic horror fare. That’s no insult either, it just isn’t overly crazy or over the top.
Overall Insanity: 1/10