The Vampire Bat (1933) Classic Movie Review 228 - (2024)

The Vampire Bat (1933) Classic Movie Review 228 - (1)

Goodnight, gentlemen. Don’t let the vampires get you.

Today on the Classic Movie Reviews Podcast, we are taking on The Vampire Bat (1933).

I can’t believe it is October already. Where did the summer go? Oh, yes, hiding inside to protect against the plague.

Before I get into the movie, I want to thank Nickname for leaving that great review on Apple Podcast. As Nickname requests, I will throw some Hitchco*ck into the mix. Look for something in November as part of the Noirvember celebration. Did Hitch make Film Noir? You bet he did.

Leaving reviews is the number one way you can help the show grow. There is another way as well. We now have Merch. Look for links on the site or in the show notes.

Let’s get back to The Vampire Bat (1933). Many people think this is the movie with Bela Lugosi, but that film is The Devil Bat (1940). Our film, The Vampire Bat (1933), has a few different names that include Blood Sucker, Forced to Sin, and a Spanish dubbed version with the same title. rates this movie 5.7[1]. About right, this film ain’t Dracula (1931). This film has 60 percent on the Tomatometer and a dismal 26 percent audience[2] approval on

On January 23, 1933, New York Times film critic A.D.S. stated:

“… Bats flew in and out of windows, women screamed, strong men blanched and Lionel Atwill drained the life blood of simple peasants in the interests of science. “The Vampire Bat” is a mystery as well as a horror picture, so that it is not well to inquire too deeply into the activities of Mr. Atwill”

Continuing later with:

…The film is acted sombrely by Mr. Atwill, heroically by Mr. Douglas and in the conventional feminine pattern for these matters by the heroine, Fay Wray. Dwight Frye wins a few mild chills with his sinister portrait of a peasant who domesticates bats for his amusem*nt and who is ultimately chased with torches through the night. But they have the wrong man there. Mr. Atwill is the man to be watched by those who expect to be terrorized by “The Vampire Bat.”[3]

This movie is not going to win any awards. However, it is free on Prime, and it is nice to see Fay Wray say a few lines. Melvyn Douglas is excellent in this one, and Dwight Frye is terrific as a kind of village idiot. And although very stiff, Lionel Atwill does a solid job as the doctor.

The Bürgermeister provides a good lesson on not jumping to conclusions and not following the mob. By the way, the mob had torches and dogs but no pitchforks. Budget cuts?

Actors – The Vampire Bat (1933)


Lionel Atwill performed well as the evil Dr. Otto von Niemann. Atwill was first covered in Son of Frankenstein (1939). He is the guy that busted hosting a wild sex party.

Fay Wray was pretty good as laboratory assistant Ruth Bertin. She hadn’t made that monkey movie yet. Fay Wray was first covered in King Kong (1933).

Melvyn Douglas was pretty darn good as the vampire skeptical investigator Karl Brettschneider. He was also the boyfriend of Ruth. Douglas was first covered in the anti-war film, The Americanization of Emily (1964).

Dwight Frye was fantastic as the village dolt and creepy guy, Herman Gleib. Frye was first covered in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), but his laughing in this film was on par with rats, rats, rats in Dracula (1931). However, in the case, it was bats, bats, bats.


Lionel Belmore played Bürgermeister Gustave Schoen. He was born in England in 1867. Belmore, the child of an acting family, was a successful character actor in the 1920s and 30s. He began on Broadway in 1899 and had moved into films by 1914. In addition to playing the Bürgermeister in The Vampire Bat (1933), Belmore was also the Bürgermeister in Frankenstein (1931). He died in 1953.

Robert Frazer played the unwitting Emil Borst. Frazer was born in Massachusetts in 1891. Successful as a leading man in silent films, being the first person to play “Robin Hood” on film in Robin Hood (1912).

When sound film became common, he became a background character. He is best known for three films: Two-Gun Caballero (1931), The Vampire Bat (1933), and The Fighting Parson (1933). He was often cast as cowboys or Indians. Frazer died in 1944.

Story – The Vampire Bat (1933)

Following bat-themed credits, a swarm of bats are shown flying around the lights in Kleinschloss, Germany. The town clock chimes 7:30 pm.

A hunched man with a lantern is walking through the town when he hears the bay of a wolf. He hurries along. Upstairs a woman screams, and her lights go out. The bats fly from their perch/hanging place in the trees.

The scene changes to Bürgermeister Gustave Schoen’s (Lionel Belmore) office. They are meeting about the six mysterious death in the previous six weeks. Karl Brettschneider (Melvyn Douglas) is skeptical about the presents of vampires. The other men talk about the outbreak of bats and the historical rise of vampirism.

In 1643, they executed a vampire, later cutting off his head and staking his heart. Karl says the only bats that drink blood are in South America. Karl scoffs as they tell that vampires can take the form of a bat or a human. Karl says he has been looking for a human killer. The wolves howl again.

A large mansion is shown from the outside. Inside is a laboratory with bubbling tubes and capacitors with electrical charges. Karl makes his way down the lab, where he plants a big old kiss on the lab assistant Ruth Bertin (Fay Wray). They are boyfriend and girlfriend, and she works for Dr. Otto von Niemann (Lionel Atwill). Karl and Ruth lament that the silly town council thinks the problem is vampires.

Aunt Gussie Schnappmann (Maude Eburne) comes in with some coffee. She says Ruth should be working in a clean and warm hospital. Karl scares Aunt Gussie with tales of vampires. A young male lab assistant Emil (Robert Frazer), comes in and leaves looking for Dr. von Niemann.

Dr. von Niemann is giving a medical exam to an old apple woman, Martha (Rita Carlyle). After the exam, he tells her nurse to keep giving her the patent medicine another doctor had left. The door opens, and Herman Gleib (Dwight Frye) comes into the room. While the others look at Herman with contempt, he sweetly gives Martha some small flowers. Dr. von Niemann orders that the windows be opened, and he sends the nurse away for the night. Herman is devoted to Martha. Apparently, Martha was attacked by a bat. Herman defends bats saying they are soft like cats. Herman is sent away by the nurse.

On the street, Dr. von Niemann talks to the hunched man about bats flying around. Herman listens to the conversation. Herman defends bats again. Dr. von Niemann is very interested in the fact that Herman plays with bats.

Later the town folks watch Herman catch and pet a bat. They now suspect Herman is the killer.

In her room, Martha puts a crucifix around her neck. The nurse closes the window before leaving.

Dr. von Niemann comes home to his lab, where he meets with Karl and Ruth. He tells Karl that he will talk over some theories with him the next day. Dr. von Niemann watches the couple leave, giving the first hint that he may be evil. He opens a locked room and goes inside.

The town clock rings midnight. Martha’s window opens, and an unseen entity attacks her.

The dead Martha is in the morgue with two puncture marks on her neck. The hunched man is winding the city council up against Herman. The town folks quickly get on board. Karl and Dr. von Niemann arrive at the morgue. Herman watches from the shadows outside of the morgue. Herman climbs the steps to the morgue, and they call him a vampire. Dr. von Niemann examines the body and confirms from another doctor that the puncture wounds on the neck are the same as the other victims. The doctors both agree that teeth created the wounds.

The Bürgermeister throws some accusations against Herman. Herman runs out, screaming when he sees that Martha has been killed. The hunched man says he saw Herman sneak into Martha’s house before midnight.

In the daytime, Ruth is reading in her garden. Herman comes sneaking around. He flees when he sees Karl coming.

Dr. von Niemann talks to Aunt Gussie while Karl tries to make time with Ruth. Aunt Gussie goes to the garden and believes she is dying. When the couple leaves, Herman comes back into the garden. He distracts Aunt Gussie while he tries to steal food. She catches him but gives him an apple anyway.

Upstairs, Dr. von Niemann, Karl, Ruth, and Emil are researching vampires. Aunt Gussie comes in and hears the talk. She is getting medicine for Herman, who has cut his hand.

Karl is starting to believe the vampire business when the Bürgermeister and his cronies come in. They tell that the hunched man has been found murdered in the same manner as the others. They say Herman has disappeared. Karl tells the cronies to bring in Herman. Herman is still in the garden, acting crazy when Aunt Gussie comes to treat him. Then she realizes the man is Herman. He gives her a bat, and she passes out. The timely arrival of a rather large dog forces Herman to flee the garden. Aunt Gussie thinks Herman has turned into the dog and is going to kill her.

Georgina (Stella Adams), the housekeeper, brings in Martha’s rosary that she has found in Emil’s room. She also tells Dr. von Niemann that Emil tracked mud in after the murder. Dr. von Niemann says for her not to speak to anyone about the subject and to have Emil come to him.

The villagers with dogs and torches chase Herman into the mountain. None of them have pitchforks. Herman runs into a cave. They follow him into the cave. They almost have him caught when he jumps off a cliff to his death. One of the men says he is going down to finish the job.

Dr. von Niemann hypnotizes Emil and sends him to kill Georgina. Emil does as bade and brings Georgina to the back part of the laboratory. Georgina is placed on a table in front of a fish tank with wires and tubes. Inside is a ham sized sponge or hunk of coral. Dr. von Niemann puts a clamp on Georgina’s neck that makes the puncture mark. He begins draining her blood.

Later, Georgina is dead in her bed with Martha’s rosary on the ground.

Auntie Gussie, Ruth, and Karl come to see Dr. von Niemann. Auntie Gussie goes to bed. Karl, Ruth, and Dr. von Niemann drink coffee by the fireplace. They don’t know that Herman is dead.

Upstairs, Auntie Gussie discovers the dead Georgina. Emil comes out to help knowing nothing about what he has done. Dr. von Niemann tells Karl that he talked to Georgina a few minutes after ten. The wounds in her neck and lack of blood are making Karl think it might be vampires. Karl remembers that Herman was in the garden earlier in the day. Karl starts focusing in on Emil.

Dr. von Niemann says Herman had the rosary in his hands at Martha’s and was at the house today. The rosary and the appearances of Herman lead Karl to believe Herman is the killer. Karl tells Ruth to stay locked in her room. Emil comes back from the door, and the Bürgermeister has come to tell that Herman fell to his death. The time of Herman’s fall was 9:00 pm. Karl tells the Bürgermeister about Georgina’s murder.

Dr. von Niemann says a natural death wouldn’t kill a vampire. The Bürgermeister tells that the hunting party did drive a stake through Herman’s heart. Herman’s death and staking leave Dr. von Niemann without a suspect to blame for the murder. Karl insists that the city properly bury Herman.

Karl starts asking Dr. von Niemann what someone can do with 6 liters of human blood. Karl says the last murder took place at Dr. von Niemann’s home, and he will go over every inch of it until he finds a clue to the murder.

Dr. Von Niemann, saying Karl needs a night of rest, pulls out a bottle of poison and tells Karl they will help him sleep. Karl’s brain is in high gear.

Karl goes back to his room and smokes. At 2:00 am, someone that looks like a vampire is crawling over Karl’s roof. It is Emil, but he is being controlled by Dr. von Niemann. Karl turns out the lights, and Emil follows his instructions. Emil places his cape over Karl.

Back at the house, Ruth hears Dr. von Niemann sending commands to Emil. Ruth’s eyes show that she has worked out who is the killer. Dr. Von Niemann comes to her room and tricks her into coming out the door. Ruth calls him mad, and he says he has created life, but that the life form needs food. He says he is going to use her as part of the project.

He straps her to a chair while he tends to the sea coral in the tank. There is a spinning fan behind her. Ruth sees someone come into the lab. Dr. von Niemann has his back turned. A cloaked figure has placed a wrapped body on the table. Dr. von Niemann turns on the lights and removes the sheet. Laying on the bed is Emil. Karl is the masked figure. He reveals his face and pulls a gun. He says I didn’t take your sleeping tablets.

Karl goes to release Ruth while Dr. von Niemann watches his every move. Dr. von Niemann starts saying Emil is the killer. He then jumps on Karl and starts fighting for the gun. Emil gets up and grabs the gun. As Karl takes Ruth outside, they hear two gunshots. Karl goes inside the back lab. Emil has killed Dr. von Niemann and committed suicide.

They end with a bit of comedy; Dr. von Niemann had prescribed Epsom Salt for Aunt Gussie to drink, obviously causing severe diarrhea.

I’ll be right back with conclusions and the World-Famous Short Summary following a word from our sponsors.

Summary – The Vampire Bat (1933)

Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray were just coming off the Doctor X (1932) success and had Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) already in the can. The studio was looking for a film to bridge the gap between the two completed movies.

Majestic Pictures, a poverty row studio, was used to crank out the film in a short timeframe. They were loaned or hired the actors and allowed to shoot at night on the Universal European Village set that had been previously used from Frankenstein (1931). These advantages give The Vampire Bat (1933) the look of a traditional Universal picture.

World-Famous Short Summary – Evil always hides where you least expect it.

I hope you enjoyed today’s show. You can find connections to social media and email on the site at or in the podcast show notes.

Beware the moors


Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

This article is a review and summary of the movie "The Vampire Bat" (1933). It discusses various aspects of the film, including the cast, the plot, and critical reception. Here's a breakdown of the concepts mentioned in the article:

  1. Movie Title and Release Year:

    • The movie in question is called "The Vampire Bat" and was released in 1933.
  2. Cast:

    • Lionel Atwill played the role of Dr. Otto von Niemann.
    • Fay Wray portrayed laboratory assistant Ruth Bertin.
    • Melvyn Douglas appeared as vampire skeptical investigator Karl Brettschneider.
    • Dwight Frye played the village dolt and creepy character Herman Gleib.
    • Lionel Belmore portrayed Bürgermeister Gustave Schoen.
    • Robert Frazer played the character Emil Borst.
  3. Plot Summary:

    • The movie is set in Kleinschloss, Germany, and revolves around mysterious deaths in the town.
    • The characters discuss the possibility of vampires and the historical rise of vampirism.
    • Dr. Otto von Niemann, a doctor with a laboratory, becomes a suspect.
    • The plot involves investigations, suspicions, and the discovery of the true killer.
  4. Critical Reception:

    • The movie received mixed reviews.
    • The New York Times film critic A.D.S. described it as a mystery and horror picture.
    • The film was not highly rated compared to other vampire-themed movies like "Dracula" (1931).
    • It received a rating of 5.7 on IMDb and had a 60% rating on the Tomatometer, with a low audience approval rating of 26% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Please note that the information provided above is based on the content of this article.

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