The Bat is a master criminal who hides out in an old socialite’s mansion after robbing a bank. He then proceeds to terrorize the occupants of the house and uses the secret passageways to move about unseen. Shortly thereafter, a detective (Chester Morris) shows up to stop the Bat and discover his true identity.
The Bat Whispers is director Roland West’s sound remake of 1926’s The Bat. Like that film, it’s one of those creaky Old Dark House mystery movies. Even in 1930, the plot was an old hat but West does what he can to spice things up.
First off, the flick looks great. It was filmed in “Mangifilm” a precursor to Cinerama. It was shot on 65 mm film and the picture is remarkable for a flick that’s 80 years old.
Secondly, the camerawork is pretty amazing in the opening scenes. The camera swoops through the city, down around skyscrapers, and into open windows. This is not only impressive for the time, but it’s just plain impressive; period. However, once the action moves to the mansion, the dizzying camerawork slowly disappears and so does the fun.
Perhaps the biggest deterrent of the film is the humor. The comic relief characters just aren’t funny at all and will grate on your nerves. Another problem is that there are just too many damned characters coming and going throughout the film, and very few of them make much of an impact on the plot. It also doesn’t help that the villain isn’t very menacing either. I mean The Bat is just a dude in a black hood and cape that’s in dire need of a Sucrets. What’s so scary about that?
I think my favorite part of the movie though were the credits. This was an early talkie and I guess that hadn’t quite figured out how to word the credits yet. Like on the opening title card it says, “Joseph M. Schenck Offers The Bat Whispers”. Umm, shouldn’t that say, “Joseph M. Schenck PRESENTS The Bat Whispers”? I guess it didn’t dawn on Schenck that if you offer a film to an audience, they might say, “No thanks.” Then at the end of the movie instead of having a title card that reads “A Roland West Film”, it says, “A Roland West Attraction”. Roland, this is a MOVIE;