Screen Sirens Halloween Edition!

 Cornelia van Gorder
of The Bat (1959)

"I have a gun, and I know how to use it!" 


Just in time for Halloween, a kick-ass lady who battles an evil serial killer! (Spoiler alert, she really does know how to use that gun). In the Vincent Price classic, screen legend Agnes Moorehead (Bewitched anyone?) plays a crime novelist named Cornelia van Gorder who is renting out an isolated house called the Oaks. The Oaks was previously the scene of a bunch of violent murders committed by the mysterious "Bat". After a million dollars are embezzled and hidden in the Oaks, the occupants of the house are the target of attacks from both the Bat and others who know about the secret room where the money may be hidden.

Cornelia is one tough beezy in this campy film. She is childless, husband-less, and utterly self-confident. She makes friends easily, has an enormously successful career writing books, and is witty to boot. She scoffs when her assistant, Lizzie, tells her about the creepy noises she's been hearing. Even when her entire staff heads for the hills in fear, Cornelia remains unflappable. She conducts a phone call to the police in an enviably calm manner after the Bat claws his way into the house, and upon hearing from Lizzie that "his specialty seems to be killing women, my goodness, two of them in one night, all his victims died the same way, like their throats had been ripped open with steel claws," she replies, "That's charming, I'll have to try it in a book sometime." Even after she is locked in an cave-like room that is quickly losing oxygen, she keeps her shit together and manages to yell loudly enough to get Lizzie's attention.

This isn't to say that The Bat is a feminist's fantasy. All the policemen, doctors, and bankers are men. The supporting women gossip, take holidays, and appear as arm candy. The men travel, conduct business, shoot the guns, and go on hunting trips. One of the other stronger female characters in the movie is Dail (Elaine Edwards). After she and another house guest hear the Bat overhead, she insists on trying to capture him even as it puts her in great danger. That's good and fine, but it only comes after she spouts "Think of what it could mean to Vick!" (her recently incarcerated husband accused of pinching the million).


However, whatever the men have to add to the movie paled in comparison to Cornelia's immortal lines and impossibly businesslike demeanor in killing the killer. In the climax scene, the Bat has lit the garage on fire and plans on breaking into the secret room while the women run to put out the fire. Cornelia insists that they ignore the diversion and remain in the room so that they can ambush the nocturnal menace. "He'll kill again if we get in his way... we've got to be as clever as he is!" she cries. Cornelia van Gorder is most certainly that.




Ps: Happy Halloween, rebel girls!
-Lee

6 comments:

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From one rebel to another...