Thursday, October 28, 2010

Three days of horror: Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray

Halloween is this Sunday, and TCM is marking the occasion by showing 72 straight hours of horror movies, starting at 6:00 AM ET Friday with three movies featuring Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray. First up are two two-strip Technicolor movies made at Warner Bros.: Doctor X at 6:00 AM, followed at 7:30 AM by The Mystery of the Wax Museum. The last is The Vampire Bat, at 9:00 AM.

Atwill plays a doctor in a small German town where a serial killer seems to be on the loose. The mayor suspects vampires, since all the victims have a pair of puncture wounds consistent with fangs, Police chief Melvyn Douglas, however, has a different view, which is that one of the town dullards, who has a thing for bats, is actually responsible. And the town's citizens respond by hounding him and effectively lynching him. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop the killings, which leads to the obvious conclusion that someone -- or something -- else is responsible.

The Vampire Bat was an low-budget production, made at little-known Majestic Pictures. The result is that the production values aren't very good. But, as with the inaccurate color of movies like Mystery of the Wax Museum, the production values actually help the movie, giving it a creepier atmosphere. To be honest, it's not a particularly good movie, but it's enjoyable enough, and not too frightening for the children.

Having been made at a Poverty Row studio, The Vampire Bat fell into the public domain at some point, which means it's now available on DVD from a bunch of different places. (That, of course, also means that the quality of the DVD may not be so good.)

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