The Bat (1926 film)
This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (April 2017)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roland West|
Joseph M. Schenck|
George Marion, Jr. (intertitles)
by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood and the novel The Circular Staircase by Rinehart
|Distributed by||United Artists|
The Bat is a 1926 American silent film based on the 1920 Broadway hit The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood, directed by Roland West and starring Jack Pickford and Louise Fazenda. The film was an influence in the creation of the fictional character Batman.
Gideon Bell, owner of the Favre Emeralds, receives a letter stating that the emeralds will be stolen at midnight by "the Bat", and that police will not be able to stop the robbery. The Bat, a figure dressed as a bat, murders Gideon and steals the emeralds. The Bat leaves a bat-shaped note for the chief of police to inform him that he will be traveling to the country. The Bat travels by car to a mansion built by Courtleigh Fleming, the president of the Oakdale Bank, who has recently been found dead in Colorado. The mansion is being rented for the summer by writer Cornelia Van Gorder, whose maid, Lizzie Allen, sets up a bear trap to catch the Bat. Richard Fleming, Courtleigh's spendthrift nephew, wishes to lease the mansion, and plans with Dr. H. E. Wells to frighten Van Gorder away.
The newspaper reports that Brooks Bailey, a cashier at Oakdale Bank, has robbed the bank of $200,000 and has disappeared. Van Gorder's niece, Miss Dale Ogden, arrives with a supposed new gardener. Van Gorder asks the gardener about his knowledge on alopecia, urticaria, and rubeola, and he answers as if the terms referred to plants rather than medical conditions. On the staircase, Richard is shot, and Miss Dale manages to snatch part of a blueprint of the house from his pocket. Detective Moletti accuses her of trying to find a supposed hidden room in the mansion that should be shown on the blueprint. Detective Anderson arrives, and the group gets a call from the house phone in the garage, which sounds like groans of distress. A circular light shines on the wall, with the shadow of a bat in its center, but after investigating, the group finds that the shape was caused by a miller moth on a car headlight.
Dr. Wells has Miss Dale recreate Richard's murder, and she notes that she tucked the blueprint in a Parker House roll on a tray, but the blueprint is now gone. The new gardener is revealed to be Brooks Bailey, and Anderson attempts to arrest him for robbery, murder, and impersonation, but Miss Dale stops him, revealing that she and Brooks are engaged. Dr. Wells searches for the hidden room by knocking on walls, which causes the others to investigate the sound, leading them to a ballroom which is supposedly haunted. The candles in the ballroom go out when lit, and a shape appears to float towards Anderson and Lizzie, but it turns out to be the Japanese butler Billy carrying a lamp. After being confronted by Moletti, Dr. Wells knocks Moletti unconscious by striking his head, and he hides Moletti's body in another room. A beaten man enters the house, and Anderson finds that he has no identification on his person.
Billy sees a mysterious figure wearing a hat, and as he leaves to tell the others, the Bat's shadow passes by the door. The Bat sets up a system of wires that attach to a light switch. Outside, Brooks sees the figure in the hat crossing the roof, and realizes that it is the supposedly dead Courtleigh Fleming. Miss Dale finds the hidden room, located behind a fireplace. The Bat confronts her, demanding the combination to the safe in the hidden room, but she escapes. Dr. Wells is accused of helping the Bat, and the Bat is soon captured and held at gunpoint. However, the Bat activates the wire system, turning off the lights and allowing himself to escape. The Bat flees outside but his leg is caught in the bear trap placed earlier by Lizzie. The others find him and remove his mask, revealing him to be Moletti. The beaten, unknown man announces that he is the true Detective Moletti, and that the man underneath the Bat's mask was merely an impersonator of Moletti.
- Emily Fitzroy as Miss Cornelia Van Gorder
- Jack Pickford as Brooks Bailey
- Jewel Carmen as Miss Dale Ogden
- Robert McKim as Dr. H. E. Wells
- Arthur Housman as Richard Fleming (billed as Arthur Houseman)
- Louise Fazenda as Lizzie Allen
- Tullio Carminati as Detective Moletti
- Eddie Gribbon as Detective Anderson
- George Beranger as Gideon Bell (billed as Andre de Beranger)
- Charles Herzinger as Courtleigh Fleming
- Sojin Kamiyama as Billy the Butler
- Lee Shumway as the Unknown
Director Roland West made his cast work at night. "Given the quiet of the studio at midnight, when no other companies are working, and plenty of spooky music from an orchestra, the players really are in a mood to simulate dark deeds".
- Director Roland West remade his film four years later as The Bat Whispers (1930), with Chester Morris and Una Merkel, and also released by United Artists.
- A 1959 remake, The Bat, starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead, was released by Allied Artists.
TV adaptations include:
- Broadway Television Theatre (1953) 60-minute TV series (WOR-TV, syndicated), with Estelle Winwood, Alice Pearce, and Jay Joslyn
- Dow Hour of Great Mysteries (1960) 60-minute NBC-TV series, with Helen Hayes, Margaret Hamilton, and Jason Robards.
- Der Spinnenmörder (1978) 88-minute German TV movie
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