The Bat (1959)

US / 80 minutes / bw / Liberty Pictures, Allied Artists Dir & Scr: Crane Wilbur Pr: C.J. Tevlin Story: The Bat (1920 play) by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood Cine: Joseph Biroc Cast: Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, Gavin Gordon, John Sutton, Lenita Lane, Elaine Edwards, Darla Hood, John Bryant, Harvey Stephens, Mike Steele, Riza Royce, Robert B. Williams

Celebrated mystery novelist Cornelia van Gorder (Moorehead) has rented an old house in the middle of nowhere, The Oaks. It’s a sufficiently creepy place that all the servants up and leave her except her maid/companion Lizzie Allen (Lane) and her chauffeur, Warner (Sutton).

Agnes Moorehead as Cornelia

She’s rented the house from Mark Fleming (Bryant), realtor nephew of local bank president John Fleming (Stephens), who’s off in the forest on an extended hunting vacation with local coroner and John’s personal physician, Dr. Malcolm Wells (Price). When Fleming Sr. tells Wells he’s robbed the bank of a million bucks in bonds and arranged that naive clerk Victor Bailey (Steele) will be the patsy for the crime, the good doctor murders him, then chucks the body into a handy forest fire; in his role as coroner, he can ignore the bullethole and register Fleming’s death as caused by the conflagration.

Vincent Price as Wells

The million bucks is somewhere in The Oaks, probably in a secret room. Can Wells get to it before local top cop Andy Anderson (Gordon)?

Oh, and did I mention there’s a serial killer called The Bat on the loose? He Continue reading

Fat Man, The: The Thirty-Two Friends of Gina Lardelli (1959 TVM)

US / 59 minutes / bw / Laxman, Screen Gems Dir: Joseph H. Lewis Pr: E.J. Rosenberg Scr: Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts Story: characters created by Dashiell Hammett Cine: Fred Jackman Cast: Robert Middleton, Tony Travis, Frank Gerstle, Jan Arvan, Leslie Bradley, Argentina Brunetti, Herb Armstrong, John Bryant, Patrick Sexton, Rita Moreno.

A while ago I posted on this site about the movie The Fat Man (1951). In 1959 there were plans to create a Fat Man TV series, with Middleton taking over the central role from the movie’s J. Scott Smart (who also played that role in the radio series that started it all), and with the central character inexplicably undergoing a name change, from Brad Runyan to Lucius Crane; his sidekick Bill Norton (played by Clinton Sundberg in the movie) here becomes Bill Gregory, again for no apparent reason. This is the pilot for that unmade TV series.

Fat Man pilot - 1 Crane Quizzes Scott

Lucius Crane (Robert Middleton) quizzes small-time hood Larry Scott (John Bryant).

Glamorous model Gina Lardelli is found dead in her apartment in the Golden State Towers, having committed suicide—or at least that’s what the cops think. But elderly schoolteacher Mario Carvello (Arvan), who knew Gina since she was a child, believes her strong Catholicism would have prevented her from taking her own life. He and 31 of her other friends, most of them direly poor, have collected $300 which they believe will hire famous PI Lucius Crane (Middleton) for three days of investigation. This is just half his usual fee but, partly because of some arm-twisting by assistant Bill Gregory (Travis), Crane takes the case anyway.

Continue reading