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The Vampire Bat (1933)

Frank R. Strayer’s 1933 feature offered a bewildering mix of horror, mystery and low comedy. The setting is a small German village where a series of murders involves vampire-type punctures on the neck and the draining of the victims’ blood. The superstitious villagers suspect that a local half-wit with a fondness for bats is the culprit, but the real villain is not that difficult to unmask – after all, when you have Lionel Atwill playing a mad scientist, it is obvious his laboratory is not being used for therapeutic research.

The low-budget Majestic Pictures studio tried to give this production an A-list pedigree by bringing in Melvyn Douglas as the police inspector investigating the case and Fay Wray as Atwill’s lab assistant, and the elaborate sets from James Whale’s “Frankenstein” and “The Old Dark House” were recycled. Unfortunately, the acting is often too broad, especially the over-the-top antics of Maude Eburne as Wray’s outrageously hypochondriac aunt and Dwight Frye as the creepy simpleton accused of being the killer.

However, the crisp visual quality in the digitally mastered restored version released on Blu-ray and DVD by The Film Detective is visually superior to the shabby public domain prints that have circulated for years, and it also includes the rarely seen segment where the villagers’ torches are boldly hand-colored in fiery hues. If the film falls below classic status, at its 63 minutes running time it makes for a benign old-time distraction.