Adaption of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s 1908 novel “The Circular Staircase” later adapted as the stage play “The Bat.” This was her first novel. The movie looks great and atmosphere is created by a constantly impending thunderstorm and the use of shadows. One big downfall is the manic performance of Maude Eburne as the skittish maid Lizzie Allen. The Bat is a murderer and thief who claims to have the greatest brain that ever existed.
The Bat leaves a note that he’s going to rob a safe of a valuable necklace at midnight. The owner of the home is waiting in the room. It looks like The Bat failed and even a radio report crows that he didn’t come through this time. That’s what they think.
After his success The Bat leaves a note saying he’s going to the country. Along the way he robs a bank vault of a half million dollars. The head cashier is the main suspect.
The action moves to a country mansion that’s been leased for the summer by Cornelia van Gorder (Grayce Hampton). With her is her maid of twenty years Lizzie Allen who panics at everything. The house is supposed to be haunted. They hear lots of noises. The caretaker is on hand too. Also staying is Cornelia’s niece Dale (Una Merkel).
Dale sneaks Brook into the house. He’s the bank cashier. They think the money is in a safe inside a hidden room and they want to find the blueprints. Cornelia calls Detective Anderson (Chester Morris) to investigate the goings on. Another detective is the elderly Jones who carries two guns. Lizzie says she has a great idea about how to catch The Bat and tosses a bear trap out the window and ties the heavy chain to her bed.
The nephew of the man who owns the house shows up. He’s Richard Fleming. Also stopping by is the local doctor. The house is filling up. Even a stranger staggers through the door. The Bat is there too and he also wants to find that safe even if he has to kill to get people out of his way.
There’s a lot of screwball comedy tossed in as people run around a lot and chase each other and Lizzie is never far behind screaming her head off at every opportunity.
Despite all that’s wrong with it the movie is still worth a look from those curious about the early talkies. Chester Morris is way different than his later success as Boston Blackie. The closing scene is also of interest.
A remake was done in 1969 with Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead.