The Bat Whispers

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The Bat Whispers
Directed byRoland West
Produced byJoseph M. Schenck
Written byMary Roberts Rinehart (play)
Avery Hopwood (play)
Roland West
StarringChester Morris
Una Merkel
Music byHugo Riesenfeld
CinematographyRay June (35mm)
Robert H. Planck (70mm)
Edited byHal C. Kern
James Smith
Joseph M. Schenck Productions for Art Cinema Corporation
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • November 13, 1930 (1930-11-13)
Running time
83 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Bat Whispers is a 1930 American Pre-Code mystery film directed by Roland West, produced by Joseph M. Schenck, and released by United Artists. The film is based on the 1920 mystery play The Bat, written by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood, and previously adapted to film in 1926.


A mysterious criminal by the name of "The Bat" eludes police and then finally announces his retirement to the country.

In the countryside near the town of Oakdale, news of a bank robbery in Oakdale has put Mrs. Van Gordner’s maid, Lizzie, on edge. Mrs. Van Gordner is leasing the house from Mr. Fleming, the Oakdale bank president, who is in Europe. The chief suspect in the bank robbery, a cashier, has disappeared. Mrs. Van Gordner’s niece, Dale arrives followed by the gardener she has hired. Dr. Venrees arrives and tells Mrs. Van Gordner that he has received a telegram from Fleming stating that because of the robbery he will be returning soon and will need to occupy his house.

There are mysterious noises in the house and lights turning on and off. A rock is thrown through the window with a note threatening harm if the occupants don’t leave. Dale, and the gardener, who is actually Brook, the missing teller, are looking for a secret room in the house. They believe the money from the robbery is hidden there.

Detective Anderson shows up and questions Mrs. Van Gordner. Mr. Fleming’s nephew, Richard, arrives at Dale’s request. She is hoping he can help in finding the secret room. Richard finds the house plans but refuses to show them to Dale. He pushes her away and runs up the stairs but he is shot by someone at the top of the stairs and falls dead. Mrs. Van Gordner sends for a private detective.

A mysterious masked man sticks a gun in the caretaker’s back and tell him he better get everyone out of the house. The lights continue to go on and off. The shadow of the Bat is seen by various occupants of the house.

Anderson states that Fleming isn’t in Europe but robbed his own bank. He accuses the doctor of being part of the plot.

An unconscious man is found in the garage. He comes to and is questioned by Anderson. He can’t remember anything. Anderson tells the private detective to keep an eye on him.

The hidden room and the missing money are found. Fleming, the missing banker, is found dead behind a wall in the room. The garage suddenly bursts into flames. In the ensuring chaos, the Bat appears and is caught, but he gets away before he can be unmasked.

As the Bat is fleeing from the house, he is caught in a bear trap, set up by Lizzie. He is revealed to be Anderson, who isn’t actually Anderson. The real Detective Anderson is the man who was found unconscious. The Bat says that no jail can hold him and he will escape.

A curtain closes across the screen. We are in a theater. Chester Morris, who played Detective Anderson tells the audience that as long as they don’t reveal the Bat’s identity they will be safe from the Bat.

Film Techniques[edit]

During this time, filmmakers did not have the advanced techniques that they have today. Therefore, they had to improvise when filming and be creative. First and foremost is the incorporation of sound into this film. The first movie with sound was created in 1927, making the inclusion of it into this 1930 film, a huge deal for people in 1930. Other film techniques seen in this film include panning, cut scenes, and close ups. Panning can be seen throughout the film but most notably in the opening scene of the movie. The movie begins with a shot of the face of a clock on a clock tower. It then goes to pan all the way down the building to show a car pulling out of a police station. Cut scenes can be seen throughout this film to show lapses in time. For example, when the police car is driving down the street, the scene (shot from the back of the car over the driver’s shoulder) can be seen fading into another scene to convey a sense of time passing. Another thing to note about this specific scene is that in 1930, movie cameras are now portable enough to be used in the back of cars to follow the action. Close ups shots are also a film industry technique that was incorporated into this movie. The most notable close ups are when the residents of the mansion are frightened and trying to figure out where the mysterious noises are coming from, and when The Bat is creeping up to Dale Van Gorder in the secret room.

Production background[edit]

An early talkie, this film is the second film version of the 1920 hit Broadway play The Bat, written by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood. The first film version of the play, The Bat (1926), was also directed by Roland West. Just as in the play and the first film, people explore an old mansion looking for a hidden treasure while a caped killer picks them off one by one. This film is noted by Bob Kane as one of the inspirations for some elements of the Batman character, which he co-created with Bill Finger.

The film was shot in three versions: a pair of 1.33:1 aspect ratio, 35mm negatives for US and foreign prints; and a 2:1 aspect ratio 65mm widescreen "Magnifilm" version (misspelled "Magnafilm" in some ads).[1] The domestic negative was cut down to 72 minutes for the 1938 Atlantic Pictures reissue, and subsequently was lost.

In 1988 the UCLA Film and Television Archive restored and preserved the 35mm foreign version and the 65mm Magnifilm from the original camera negatives.[2]

This film was remade again in 1959 as The Bat with Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price.

Connection to "Batman"[edit]

Comic-book creator Bob Kane said in his 1989 autobiography Batman and Me that the villain of The Bat Whispers was an inspiration for his character Batman.[3]


As Listed in the Credits/Order of Appearance

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David Coles, "Magnified Grandeur, Widescreen 1926-1931"
  2. ^ BBC Online Network
  3. ^ The Haunting of Robert Kane!,, September 2007. Retrieved November 9, 2011.

External links[edit]