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The Vampire Bat (Frozen Solid and Fryed)

Posted by Dirck on 27 October, 2010

Because yesterday’s weather was rather over-seasonal, with masses of snow running along at rather greater than the city speed limit, my son was not taken to his gymnastics class yesterday.  In seeking other diversions, my wife and I realized that he was entirely rapt in his pursuit of recreating in wood the story lines of his favourite Thomas the Tank Engine episodes, and we could, with care, watch something Hallowe’enie.  The simple criteria of “nothing that will tramatize the lad” lead us towards black-and-white productions, and while what we ended up with was pre-Code, it certainly didn’t upset any non-adult equilibrium.

We watched The Vampire Bat, made in 1933, and it was… pretty much exactly what we were after.  Creepy, obscurely-European settings.  Direction influenced by the shoals of German expressionists that were lurching about the US at the time.  Acting that bounded between hammy and casual.  Lamentably, a recurrent odious comic relief character who fails to die.  The one thing it lacked was a rubbery, unconvincing bat on a string, and as this was subbed for by actual fruit bats, that’s hardly a crippling absence.  I’m not going to do much more than recommend it (time is short as I spent some of this lunch break buying a nearly-adequate winter outfit for the Tiny Tyrant) and offer a link to the decently-written and well-considered review which actually prompted me to look at the thing in the first place.

There are a couple of things that I want to touch on, the first of which is entirely aside from the point of the picture.  Melvyn Douglas at one point asks Lionel Atwill how much blood there is in a human body, and the latter replies that there are six liters.  At which point I somewhat lost track of the narrative as my jaw, in falling to the floor, had dismounted my ears.  From an authenticity standpoint, of course a doctor in an undefined mid-European town called Kleinschloss (“Little Castle”, if we accept it as Germany) would speak of volumes in metric like that… but the writer of a small US studio’s penny dreadful would know or care that this was the case?  Amazing!

The other point is Dwight Frye.  I may start judging people on their reaction to that name alone, especially in late October.  You will likely remember him best as the madman Renfield under the sway of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, and in that role he had to play a few minutes of buttoned-down estate agent.  In this, he is raving at full throttle every minute he’s on camera.  Well worth the price of admission, especially the bit when he denies the inherent evil of bats, declaring them instead nice, soft creatures, like cats.  That’s a looney I’ll have to tea any day of the week.

Today’s pen:  Parker 21 Super
Today’s ink: Wancher Imari (which is a very nice near-indigo, and agrees quite well with the pen)

2 Responses to “The Vampire Bat (Frozen Solid and Fryed)”

  1. sadieruin said

    If you’re ever in the market for another cliche B&W bat movie, might I recommend Devil Bat. It’s got a similar premise but also has an older Bela being quite nefarious. While I’m not 100% sure of what exactly is appropriate watching with the tiny tyrant, but it’s definately campy and classic B&W fare, including both Large Flying Fox close up’s and large fake bats on strings. If I recall correctly there’s even a scene involving a fainting chair.

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