Skip to main content

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

... ... 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 »

THE SEARCHERS

John Ford's timeless saga of revenge with John Wayne, Vera Miles and Natalie Wood, is unquestionably one of the greatest of all Westerns, and Ethan Edwards is arguably the performance of John Wayne's ... More »

BECKY SHARP

BECKY SHARP, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, was the first feature film shot in full colour, that is, in three-strip Technicolor. ... Loosely based on William Thackeray's VANITY FAIR. BECKY SHARP was ... More »

IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER

"The title is a misnomer. Comden and Green's tart follow-up to On The Town, directed by the same team (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen) is like a delayed hangover. The three buddies are now Kelly, Dan ... More »

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE

Resurrected after 25 years in Frank Sinatra's vaults John Frankenheimer's long-suppressed political satire still stimulates audiences with its verve, dash and morally pointed wit. ... Contrary to ... More »

TABU

... ... It's hard to imagine a more unlikely pairing than that of F.W. Murnau and Robert Flaher­ty. Mumau was a mystic, theoretician and fatalist; Flaherty, an optimist, a dreamer, an authentic ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director