Our next debuting contributor in this year’s Halloween Horrors series is Ben Williams. For those of you keeping score at home, Ben makes the 6th contributor this year who is joining our series for the first time!
A co-worker of mine, I’ve known for sometime now that Ben is a huge Evil Dead fan, as well as a huge Godzilla fan. While we work in different states, we frequently have conversations about both series of films. More frequently, we tend to have conversations about Ben’s desire to steal the Godzilla lamp that sits upon the desk in my office. Ultimately, this has nothing to do with Ben’s entry into our series this year OR the film that he has claimed to write about. No. I only mention it just to remind him that it is still sitting peacefully in my office…. far from his his reach.
While I also knew that Ben was a big fan of the works of Vincent Price, I admit that I was unaware of just how much of a fan he really is. As a fellow fan of Price’s work, I was thrilled to see a film featuring this Master of Horror make the list, especially since it is easily the oldest film in this year’s line-up! Remember, kids! Some of the spookiest tales didn’t happen in color!
Who else loves a wonderful “Old Dark House” story? Wait, how can this be? Old dark house story? Read me out about this, LOL. Think about it, old dark house, lol. Secret entrances, dark menace, terrorizing the unknown, even though they have been warned. All coming together in a wonderful, relaxing getaway to write the next great novel. This movie is the predecessor of a familiar tale.
Before we rip into the proverbial meat of the story, let’s dig into the bones of this wonderful film. Does the name William Cameron Menzies ring any bells? He was the set designer for this film and a few others. You may have heard of them: Gone with The Wind, Invaders from Mars, The Maze, The Adventures of Fu Manchu: The Zayat Kiss. He studied at Yale, University of Edinburgh, and The Art Students League in New York. His service in the Expeditionary Services in World War 1 was heroic.
I must also bring to light the fact that along with his previously listed credentials, he was a tireless innovator, meticulously pre-planning the color, shades, and design of each film through a series of continuity sketches, outlining camera angles, lighting, and the positioning of the actors in each scene. That takes a lot of dedication. For Gone with The Wind, he helped draw close to 2,000 detailed watercolor sketches. This thirst for perfection and detail should be well respected for the accomplishments he made.
Now, may I direct your attention to Roland West, the director of the 1926 film The Bat. He worked on the films The Monster (1925) and The Bat Whispers (1930). Not bad, huh? He was known to direct moody, atmospheric horror/ mystery films. After directing his last film, Corsair (1931), he retired. Trust me, the story does not stop there. At his retirement he opened a restaurant with his girlfriend, Thelma Todd, and his ex-wife, Jewel Carmen. Sounds crazy, huh? Just wait, there’s more. During the operation of the restaurant, the establishment gained notoriety for attracting a wide variety of shady characters, IN THE 1930’s!!! What would be considered shady characters in the 1930’s? THE MAFIA!!!! How about adding even more mystery/ horror to your own life?
It gets better! With all of this going on in Santa Monica Beach, it was further rumored that pressure was added to them to get their Hollywood friends drunk enough to gain persuasion over them for black mail. Talk about a plot twist! This lifestyle continued for Roland until 1935, when Todd was found in her car, slumped over the steering wheel with the engine still running in an adjacent apartment garage. It was originally ruled as an “accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.” Creeped a little yet? I know I was when I found this out! Talk about taking the mystery and horror off the screen and with you, literally, to your house! Many of her friends and family believed she passed due to recourse from the gangsters after she refused to continue allowing them to use her restaurant for nefarious reasons. There are others that continue to believe that West himself, who was known to have a horrendous temper, killed her. They were known to have fought on numerous occasions. Her murder, to this day, is still listed as unsolved.
Now onto the film, based on a play written by Mary Roberts Rhinehart. The Bat is a about a master criminal who tries to scare the inhabitants of an Old Dark House, so that he can reap the rewards of his latest score. However, the trouble of nicely trying to persuade your unwanted guests in a place where you hid your stash is THEY WONT LEAVE! NO MATTER WHAT YOU TRY TO DO! Well, sometimes, you must take matters into your own hands. Literally! Well, he takes the victims throats into his hands when he slashes them out with long, sharp claws.
Either way, I digress. There are multiple ways to accomplish a goal. It just depends on your patience level and your persistence to get what you want. The problem with a great plan or scheme is that complications tend to multiply quickly. Often times, other criminals get wind of a stolen score and try to reap the rewards. Why not go ahead and take the benefits of someone else’s hard work, huh? See, the problem is everyone gets greedy. Then, they take things way too far and they start killing each other off. It becomes a battle of wits and cunning guile to the bitter end. I’m not going to fully divulge the film to those that find this piece worth reading. I do ask that for the sake of all the workers who made the film, the story, the sets, the lighting, the camera angles, and the star-studded cast, please give this wonderful film, The Bat, a chance to be enjoyed and treasured once again.
Seriously, this film is great! You have a rustic getaway, a dark and creepy house, with inhabitants that refuse to leave because they believe that will never happen to them. You will also find schemes going wrong, back-stabbing, (of course) murder and sleepless nights. The shadowing, excitement and cliffhangers throughout the film and the wowing transition of nefariousness between the characters make this tale of excitement and mystery absolutely worth your while to enjoy.
Oh yea, I must also mention the wonderful presentation brought to you by Vincent Price. Given all of this, please give this timeless classic from 1959 a chance for your enjoyment. Not only is the film wonderful, but taking time to enjoy the back story that helped develop the story/ film, is wonderful as well.