The Bat Whispers

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The Bat Whispers

Shot using Magnifilm, an early widescreen process, the 1930 film The Bat Whispers may be one of the most difficult-to-watch American movies ever to have gained historical importance. That importance, however, is difficult to overemphasize, if for no other reason than the fact that The Bat, the masked super-criminal of the title, provided the primary inspiration for the recently deceased Bob Kane's most famous creation, Batman. From a cinematic perspective, a dozen or so isolated moments of stunning filmmaking make The Bat Whispers worth a look. Director Roland West gets underway with a remarkable opening shot involving the truly innovative use of miniatures, then continues to insert similar moments throughout the film, from some beautiful compositions to some surprising tracking shots. As for the rest, West found little to do with The Bat Whispers' creaky stage origins: Remarkable moments aside, it's the prototypical convoluted "old dark house" mystery, involving diamonds, a conspiracy, and an easily flustered, easily frightened maid. For those who are interested, however—and much of this material really does warrant interest—it's been beautifully restored and presented in its original widescreen format.