• Don't link to the video of the Christchurch shooting, or repost links to the shooter's manifesto.

[WIW] Old Black & White Sci-Fi and Horror flicks

Snow Goon

Credible Hulk
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#1
I love old sci-fi and horror flicks from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. The extraordinarily basic special effects, often adorable dialogue, and outlandish premises can be great fun. Even the quaint black and white film is just, I believe, enjoyable to see. One of the things I like to imagine while watching is how the story could be updated for a modern remake or how I might use it as inspiration for a campaign. Oftentimes I find there are kernels of greatness in even the cheesiest, most low-budget schlock.

Hopefully I won't be the only person who finds this a fun little diversion. So, here we go...

The Bat (1959)
Starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead

Plot in a Sentence: When an author and her staff rent an old country home, they become caught in an improbable web of masked serial killers, rabid bats, bank robbery, and a convenient forest fire.

Quotable Quotations:
"I ain't afraid of ghosts. They're afraid of me!"

"And that, I suppose, is the cat dropping its dentures?"

"Oh dear, oh dear. I'm gonna get the rabies."

"Into each life a little rain must fall, and a careful man learns to keep himself dry."

"Here's a serum [holding a gun] that will cure you whether you're rabid or not."

General Thoughts:
This movie is bananas. It just keeps layering complication on top of twist. New characters and dangers keep piling in until you're preying for a murderer to clear the field a little. It's like a pitcher who can't throw anything but curve balls.

Why is a killer known for not having a face and killing with steel claws called "the Bat" in the first place? What about "the Faceless Claw" or "the Five Talons of Anonymity?" And why would a killer renowned for his silent and stealthy ways try to knock his way through a wall with a hammer and chisel while the household is asleep? The Bat is such a weird masked criminal.

Gaming Potential:
You could use this plot as the foundation for a good low-key Call of Cthulhu scenario. In such a story, the Bat might be a centuries' dead vampire recently risen from his family crypt. He rose in the last winter and, while hunting young women to regain his strength, was seen by a handful of locals who described him as a strange bat-like figure. Mostly restored, the Bat then took control of his eldest descendant and compelled him to rob his own bank and kill himself after hiding the money in his ancestral manor. The Bat planned to "turn up" as a distant relative and take up residence in the manor, using the stolen money to build his new life. Unfortunately, until he can feed enough to regain his human appearance, he'll have to hide in the family crypt.

At the same time, an author from the city had rented the manor from a younger member of the family, and has moved in. Her staff was frightened off by stories of the Bat (or maybe they've disappeared), leaving the players' to take up the roles of locals hired to replace the missing staff. They'll have to use all their ingenuity to keep the old woman alive and survive the depredations of the vampire.

Next up... Man Made Monster.
 

counterfactual

Registered User
Validated User
#2
I have The Bat when I went through a phase of downloading public-domain movies from archive.org, but never watched it. It's the third time the property had been filmed. A 1908 best-seller novel, "The Circular Staircase," was turned into a hit 1920 Broadway play, "The Bat." The play was filmed in 1926 as a silent, in 1930 as a talkie, and in 1959 as a Vincent Price vehicle. The play and the silent actually had the villain dressed in a bat costume. Bob Kane credits the 1930 film as one of the inspirations for Batman.
 

Snow Goon

Credible Hulk
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#3
I have The Bat when I went through a phase of downloading public-domain movies from archive.org, but never watched it. It's the third time the property had been filmed. A 1908 best-seller novel, "The Circular Staircase," was turned into a hit 1920 Broadway play, "The Bat." The play was filmed in 1926 as a silent, in 1930 as a talkie, and in 1959 as a Vincent Price vehicle. The play and the silent actually had the villain dressed in a bat costume. Bob Kane credits the 1930 film as one of the inspirations for Batman.
Interesting. I'd seen that it had been a play, but didn't know that the eponymous villain was actually in an appropriate costume.
 

austenandrews

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#4
Nice! Out of curiosity, how are you watching the movies?

I always mix up The Bat and The Vampire Bat thanks to my boyhood crush on Fay Wray.
 

Snow Goon

Credible Hulk
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#5
I recently found a bunch of them on YouTube, and have been watching them there. There are others that I own, like Creature From the Black Lagoon and The Indestructible Man, that I'll also probably re-watch and write up.
 

Mallus

Registered User
Validated User
#7
Price plays a casually muderous Doctor in The Bat, right? It sounds like the film my wife and I enjoyed greatly back when we were on a old noir/thriller kick.

Allow me to 2nd THEM! It’s a classic. Qualifies as science fiction under the strictest of definitions, too.
 

Azimer the Mad

Knight of Chaos
Validated User
#8
I love your review format.

Oooh, do Return of the Vampire! Bela Lugosi! Female badass vampire hunter! Ridiculous amazing twist ending!

Also, I greatly recommend the Monster Kid Radio podcast if you like this kind of thing.
 

Snow Goon

Credible Hulk
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#9
casting a vote for THEM!
Them! is totally on the list.
I love your review format.

Oooh, do Return of the Vampire! Bela Lugosi! Female badass vampire hunter! Ridiculous amazing twist ending!

Also, I greatly recommend the Monster Kid Radio podcast if you like this kind of thing.
Thanks, and thanks for the podcast recommendation. I'll give it a shot.
I actually haven't seen Return of the Vampire, so I'll see if I can find it. I do love me some Bela Lugosi.
 

Snow Goon

Credible Hulk
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#10
Well, it seems like there are at least a few others who enjoy this, so on with the show.
Man Made Monster.jpg
Man Made Monster (1941)
Starring Lon Chaney Jr., Lionel Atwill, and Anne Nagel

Plot in a Sentence: The survivor of a fatal bus accident is changed, through applied electro-biology, into a mindless glowing killer by a mad scientist.

Quotable Quotations:
"I'm Dynamo-Dan, the Electrical Man."

"Yokel shockers?"
"Sure, stuff to fool the peasants."

"But electro-biology sounds terrifying."

"The forces of creation... Bah!"

"Sometimes I think you're mad."
"I am!"

"I bet he spent his childhood sticking pins in butterflies."

"I have conquered destiny!"

General Thoughts:
This movie moves incredibly quickly. The roughly 1-hour film starts with a bus crashing into some electrical lines, leaving only one passenger alive.It's like the Unbreakable of 1941. Without pause, Dan, the survivor, is whisked off to a scientist's sanctum where he is unwittingly subjected to unethical experiments into the unproven field of ELECTRO-BIOLOGY (I love hearing that). Within a few minutes of screen time our tragic hero, Dan, becomes a glowing automaton controlled by the will of a megalomaniac. Everything happens at a breakneck pace.

This is one of those old laboratory films where a scientist wreaks havoc among arcing electricity, bubbling liquids, and things that go "hum." Here the scientist is trying to create some sort of laborer-soldier underclass of electro-men. What he gets is a glowing Lon Chaney Jr. mugging woodenly while stomping around the sets. Honestly, it could be worse. :)

Oh, and Corky the wonder dog is easily the smartest character in this movie.

Gaming Potential:
While I wouldn't follow what I'm forced to call the "plot," the movie might be used as an interesting seed for Mage: the Ascension. I'd create Dr. Paul Rigas as a rogue member of Iteration X. Obsessed by the concept of electro-biology and desperate to see it accepted by the scientific community, he'd need to establish his theories among the sleepers. In order to do this, he's been abducting terminal patients from the local hospitals as well as men and women who survived any form of significant electrocution. Testing his theories on these unfortunates, he's been trying to establish parameters for clinical trials that sleeper physicians might accept.

The PCs might be tradition mages or Technocrats who begin investigating when bodies start being stolen from graveyards. They'll assume that it's something like a vampire or maybe some dark spirit, of course, but no! Rigas has started studying the remains of criminals executed via electrocution. When they track the grave-robbing (and other abductions) back to a mad scientist, how will they react?

Next up... The Brain Eaters!
 
Top Bottom