Thursday, June 16, 2011

Film #68: The Bat Whispers (1930)

No need for riddling this, or riddling that.
It’s obvious who’s afraid of the big black bat.
Everyone… at least those in “The Bat Whispers.”

Whispering isn’t polite. That is what momma taught us (that, and go straight for the eyes!). But secret tisk-talk is the least of people’s worries in this week’s flick.
The Bat not only Whispers, he also murders!

Coppers are having a helluva time catching a maniac thief named “The Bat.” Legend holds that the perp is half man, half hideous winged devil who bites and kicks… and flies!

After a string of robberies/murders, the entire town is on edge. So confident in his criminal ability, The Bat even gives police the location of his next robbery – a socialite’s mansion housing a safe with a priceless necklace. The cops surround the place, but the bat still manages to not only steal the necklace but murder the socialite right under their powdered noses (you know, from donuts).
As a farewell, The Bat leaves a note saying he has had his fill of the city and will be moving the countryside for some “relaxation.”

Country folk, including the servants of Cornelia Van Gorder, don’t like the sound of that. Van Gorder and her dimwitted “help” are staying in a stately country manor for vacation. It just so happens that the owner of the mansion, the president of a bank, recently experienced a bank robbery of hundreds of millions of dollars while he was “out of the country.”

A humble bank teller, and Van Gorder’s niece’s secret fiancé, is the main suspect in the heist. Scared for her lover, the niece hides the bank teller in plain sight at the mansion, saying he is the new gardner. Word gets out that the teller is at the house, and that he has hidden the fortune in a secret room hidden deep inside the country mansion.

Spooks and strange folks soon arrive at the house. Van Gorder calls both the police and a private detective to protect them… but with The Bat on the loose no one feels safe.
All sorts of creepers begin sneaking around looking for the treasure, meanwhile scaring the house inhabitants into believing there are ghosts afoot.
“Get out now!” one seeming specter demands. And wouldn’t you know it, The Bat also shows up… and starts picking off his competitors one by one while looking for the mullah.

Is the mansion filled with ghosts, or robbers?
Did the bank teller really take that money?
Just who is “The Bat”?
What is the meaning of life?
Find out, in the thrilling 1930 haunted house mystery “The Bat Whispers.”

RDHP Ratings and Review

C-Rating: 3.9
Chris Dimick whispers:
Some may say it is dead in film, killed off by round after round of sequels and remakes. I feel it has just gone into hiding… eeking out in smaller, unknown indies (The Human Centipede) and the occasional breakout mainstream hit (Inception).

What makes a movie entertaining is its originality, if even the trait only blossoms for one scene or cinematic idea. Originality is what made The Bat Whispers great, and a blast to watch.
But it wasn’t the plot or the dialog or even the twist ending that made “Bat” so great.

In fact, it wasn’t really all that original as a whole. The movie was based on a successful play, and there was even a silent film version made before it, directed by this film’s director, Roland West. All three versions employed many of the same plot points (and would again when the movie remade, this time with Vincent Price, in 1959).

The originality came from the film’s cinematography, which fiercely grabbed our attention 81 years after the movie was released. Similar to shots in modern day super hero movies, The Bat Whispers featured several scenes where the camera swooped through scenery and buildings, one fluid continuous shot through the sky giving the allusion one is flying, like a Bat, through the environment.

Long before CGI and Matrix like camera work, the makers of this film employed life like models to perform the shots. Even with the less sophisticated technology, the effect was exciting and somewhat mind-blowing.

Nick and I literally “whoa-ed!” during the scenes featuring the bit. It was like I was watching a 1930 version of Sin City or The Dark Knight. Amazing.
Speaking of Batman, that famous comic character was created in 1939 by Bob Kane, who freely says the complicated crime-fighter is based in part on The Bat Whispers.

I’ll admit there are no true original ideas. Everything, especially in entertainment, is based in part on something that has come before it. There’d be no rock and roll without the blues, no Family Guy without The Simpsons… etc.
And The Bat story has been made so many times, one might think it odd to equate it with originality.

But this film's cinematographer really made it his own, and brought the audience something never seen before. He could have phoned it in… seeing as it was just another silly mystery movie. But he didn’t. He went for it, for something new, for something to “wow.”

Right here, I want to thank him for that, whatever cemetery he is in. Thanks for not following the norm, or just giving it the effort required, Mr. Cinematographer. Thanks for trying, and for being original.
You entertained me, a man in 2011, with your antics. And you made my night, on June 14, 2011, in the process.

It can be easy to take originality for granted in the slog of copycats and not-try-very-hards that come our way each day. But in the same vein, that just makes it much easier to spot when something truly unique and heartfelt does come along.

When you find this, promote it, praise it, share it. I forget all too often to appreciate the hard work and originally of folks. Problem is, if you don’t ask more, you’ll just get more of the plain old boring same.

And do we really need another SAW movie?”

N-Rating: 3.7
Nick Rich whispers: “Until I sat down to write this review and reread the title of this movie, I totally thought it was called 'The Bat Whisperer'. You know... like The Horse Whisperer... only with bats. I can only imagine what this film would have been like had it actually had that tile - more squinting, romance and animal feces perhaps? Thankfully it did not, and the pain of Phantasm IV was scrubbed partially from my memory. For this piece of community service, I would truly like to thank you The Bat Whispers, in all the ways that matter you've made a difference in my life.

While not the best movie I've ever seen, The Bat Whispers certainly holds its own. Which, considering the company it keeps as a 1930's film (M, King Kong, The Black Cat, etc.), is quite impressive. As Chris mentioned, this was a film that truly looked out of its time, as if the filmmakers were able to peer into a crystal ball and see hue of tomorrows yet to come. The cinematography was shockingly fresh for a film that at the time of our viewing was 81 years old.

I think the thing that impressed me most about the cinematography was that the amazing camera shots were nestled in among, truthfully, rather mundane workhorse shots of the action (or lack thereof). You would be clipping along, following the story and most likely forgetting the camera was even there and BAM! These ingenuitive shots would slap you in the face out of nowhere! A sprawling zoom shot, an awkward angle that pushes you off balance... that they were surrounded by simple shots made them all the more impressive, like standing a pretty girl among the wallflowers. Sure, other films from this era had some crazy cinematography (see Vampyr), but The Bat Whispers stood apart because of its restraint of, rather than indulgence in creative shots.

I can't in good conscious finish this entry without mentioning some of negative aspects of this film... after all, it wasn't all gravy. Here's a quick rundown:
  • The acting was a little slapsticky (which was actually quite annoying in the case of the housekeeper) and felt oddly like it both belonged and didn't fit at the same time... which left me feeling a bit conflicted.
  • The story wasn't particularly well crafted. For a movie that touted a twist ending, I as the viewer wasn't even aware I was supposed to be guessing who The Bat was! So, naturally, I wasn't all that surprised for the big reveal... oh, and once revealed, there wasn't that total recall you get from a good reveal where the entire film flashes before your eyes again and you think 'oooohhhh, it all makes sense now!' Instead, I was left thinking 'oh, ok, that dude's The Bat.'
  • The pacing of the film was a bit slow at times. I suppose I expected that a movie that was filmed in such forward-thinking way would have pacing to match... and was subsequently a bit disappointed.
As I mentioned before, all of these negatives magically seemed to make the film shine all the brighter for those amazing moments tucked away in the celluloid. So while it may seem like there are quite a few negatives in this film, I would recommend checking it out - it's just a fun ride. Of course, any enjoyment I derived out of this film could just be the direct result of it following a viewing of a Phantasm film, coupled with the fact that it was not complete and utter crap. Let's choose to think its a decent flick and let Phantasm stop haunting us (as if that's possible).

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you want to see what The Matrix or Inception looked like as a fetus... or if you'd like to see Thomas Lennon's great-grandfather!”

Things We Learned From The Bat Whispers:
-Socialism is bad, but even worse is “spookism.”
-Mentally disabled folks make great house “help.”
-Best place to keep one’s Ouija board is under the family Bible.
-Best way to stop snoring is to tie one’s jaw shut with a handkerchief.
-It takes Chris 34 seconds to get a pop from his fridge.
-Ladies’ minds go out the window when a good looking fella walks through the door.
-Feeling sick? Some Prohibition whiskey will cure ya.
-Alopecia is not a strain of flowers.
-Darkness can allow anyone to escape any situation.
-Mexican Twinkies are called “Los Submarinos”:

RDHP Presents:
"Dude, I won't ruin the ending for you, but you HAVE to see it"
No spoilers allowed! Seriously, it is the RDHP’s opinion that people who tell spoilers, especially end of the movie spoilers, should have their toenails slowly pulled off with rusty pliers and fed to them with a glass of Kim Kardashians butt-sweat.
At the end of The Bat Whisper, a main character “breaks the fourth wall” of the movie and pleads to viewers to not give away the surprise, twist ending. Nothing worse than ruining the end of a movie by spoiling the surprise. Even worse, those people who claim to have “known it all along” after viewing. Yeah right.
In honor of keeping secrets and preventing spoilers, we present our favorite surprise ending movies that should have a similar whisper warning. These endings will twist you harder than a Rold Gold!

The 6th Sense (1999)
Dead people are seen indeed.

The Usual Suspects
Kaiser Soze is whaaaaaaaaaaaaa?

Se7en (1995)
What’s in the box, Brad?

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
You’ll feel confused, terrified, and maybe a little turned on.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Mega-daddy issues.

Diabolique (1955)
You’ll never walk into the bathroom alone again.

The Village (2004)
M Night strikes again! What a twisty billy!

Identity (2003)
John Cusack confused in a movie. Not the first or last time.

Dark City (1998)
Just where are they?!

Planet of the Apes (1968)
You maniacs, you really did it!

No comments:

Post a Comment