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THE BAT WHISPERS

USA, 1930 (MIFF 1989, Retrospectives)

Director: Roland West

Made at a time when stodgy stage adaptions were the rule, The Bat Whispers is every bit a movie of great pictorial inventiveness. There are scenes which hark back Do the bravura gestures of silent melodrama — to Fritz Lang's Spies, for one — and others which look forward by nearly a decade to Citizen Kane. No actual proof exists, but I think there is real evidence on screen that Welles and/or Kane cinematographer Gregg Toland saw — and were marked by — West's film.

The Bat Whispers was shot in two versions— 65mm widescreen and 35mm standard. The widescreen version has not been available for more than half a century — UCLA restored it on modern 65mm film and from that produced a 35mm anamorphic printing negative that was used to make the print now being shown. This tale of a mad master criminal was directed, designed, and lit by masters. There were cameras on elevators rigs, catapults, cables, rails, and perambulators. One of the cameras rode a large tricycle. The extraordinary flexible lighting patterns vary from shot to shot. A wildly stylized bank robbery scene in the opening reel makes use of forced perspective, sweeping camera movements, superb miniature work, and, extraordinarily, zooms, certainly not a common practice in 1930. All the performances are enjoyably overripe.

See also...

THE BIG HEAT

USA, 1953
... ... Sydney Boehm's solid, hard-nosed script might have been made into a routine cops-and-robbers thriller, but the director, Fritz Lang, gave it a formalised style. The movie is all a piece; it's… More »

IN A LONELY PLACE

USA, 1950
... ... The place is Hollywood, lonely for scriptwriter Dixon Steele (Bogart) who is suspected of murdering a young woman, until girl-next-door Laurel Gray (Grahame) supplies him with a false alibi. … More »

THE RONGGENG DANCER

Indonesia, 1988
... ... Nyi Ronggeng is probably the most remarkable fiction film ever made about popular culture and folk traditions in Indonesia. It sets its story among the members of a Ronggeng dance troupe, and… More »

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