The Vampire Bat appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Even for a movie from 1933, this image seemed problematic.
One major concern resulted from print flaws, as those abounded. Throughout the movie, I saw specks, scratches, blotches and other issues. These varied in intensity but remained a frequent distraction.
Sharpness seemed up and down as well but still turned into one of the better aspects of the image. While occasional soft spots occurred, much of the movie exhibited reasonably good accuracy. I saw no signs of jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent.
Blacks tended to be inky and wan, and low-light shots usually looked too bright. For a movie that needed an atmospheric feel, this one failed to exhibit a good sense of that in its many darker scenes. All of this left the image as a disappointment.
Though better, the movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack also had issues, and some of these connected to background noise, or the lack thereof. Although one would think an absence of clicks, pops and hiss would be a positive, the audio seemed so quiet that it could become a distraction.
The main problem stemmed from the choice to completely mute the audio at times. If nothing obvious occurred in terms of sound, the track would go totally silent, and that created a disconnect from the rest of the mix’s feel.
We’d go from a light sense of ambience – if just via natural movement on the set – to no sound at all, and this didn’t work. Rather than hide the deficiencies of the source, the muted track seemed awkward and distracting.
This choice also felt unnecessary because the mix usually remained largely free from source problems anyway. The track clearly got a lot of “denoising” work, as it largely came free from background issues, so the decision to opt for complete silence at times made little sense.
Beyond these odd choices, the track appeared fine for its age. Speech tended to sound brittle and metallic, but within the standards of its era, the lines seemed intelligible and well-rendered.
Effects lacked much presence, but they were clean enough and without real distortion. Though the occasional splashes of music could be a little harsh, the score generally displayed passable clarity. If the disc’s producers let the audio remain more true to its source, it’d sound better, but with the heavy-handed attempts to remove noise, it lost points.
Two extras appear here, and we begin with an audio commentary from film historian Sam Sherman. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion of cast/crew as well as elements related to the production.
More specifically, Sherman tends to talk around movie domains. While he touches on topics that connect to Bat, he rarely chats about much that actually tells us about the production or its participants.
This makes the commentary more than a little frustrating. For instance, rather than cover the careers of those involved in detail, he focuses on the times he chatted with them. Rather than talk about the movie’s release and its creation, we find out that it ran on TV a lot in the 1960s.
And so it goes. This becomes an oddly elliptical chat that gives us tangential information without much real substance. That makes it less than useful.
Becoming the Son of Melvyn Douglas runs seven minutes, three seconds and features a chat with actor’s son Gregory Hesselberg. He chats about his relationship with Douglas. A few decent insights emerge.
Despite some potential for suspense, The Vampire Bat tends to feel cheap and unfocused. The movie doesn’t use its positives well and turns into a spotty effort. The Blu-ray presents flawed picture and audio as well as a less than informative commentary. Bat brings us a forgettable crime drama.