Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Vampire Bat (1933)


The Vampire Bat (1933) starred Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas, and Dwight Frye and was directed by Frank R. Stayer. The plot revolves around the unexplained deaths of several Klineschloss residents the town fathers suspect vampirism since the victims are dying from blood loss. 

The story of this film’s production is a classic example of the David and Goliath scenario; A tiny production company, Majestic Pictures Inc. competing with the big studios and producing what would become their biggest hit for 1933.

Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill had been in the highly successful film Doctor X (1932) the previous year and had just finished working on Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) for Warner Bros. Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) was a large scale production and would have a lengthy post-production process. Majestic Pictures, a poverty row studio, realized the chance to exploit all the advance publicity connected with Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), contracted Wray and Atwill for their own "quickie" horror film and rushed The Vampire Bat (1933) into production.  Majestic also hired Dwight Frye who was known for his roles in the highly successful Universal horror classics Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931).

Majestic Pictures had a much lower overhead than the larger studios, who were struggling to stay afloat during the Great Depression. As a result Majestic Pictures was able to produce a film comparable to the Universal Pictures horror films of the early 1930s at a fraction of the cost.  Majestic leased the “German Village” back lot sets left over from Frankenstein (1931), the interior sets from The Old Dark House (1932) and did some location shooting at Bronson Caves, completing the illusion that this was a film from a much bigger studio.  A stock musical theme by Charles Dunworth, "Stealthy Footsteps", was used to accompany the opening credits. The finished product had the appearance of a film with a much higher budget.

The release of The Vampire Bat (1933) worked well for Majestic, which was able to rush the film into theaters on January 6, 1933, less than a month before Warner's release of Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). The Vampire Bat (1933) has a huge hit for Majestic. Over time the film was forgotten and is overlooked by modern-day audiences, but for the true fan of early horror films The Vampire Bat (1933) iscertainly worth a look.

The failure of the original copyright holder, Majestic to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain. As a public domain film anyone could duplicate and sell a copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film.

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