From the video case: Bela Lugosi plays Dr. Carruthers, a small-town chemist who has been cheated by his former business partners and decides to get revenge. Rather than shoot his victims, Carruthers concocts an elaborate plan, by which he takes normal-sized bats and subjects them to an electrical device that makes them grow to monstrous proportions. Having devised a special shaving lotion that the killer bats are attracted to, the mad scientist then presents the lotion to his victims as a gift, urging them to try some on in his presence. He then leaves and waits for the bats to do their work. (1940, b&w)
Mark says: The Devil Bat gives us a glimpse into what Lugosi’s career would be reduced to in future decades. This is an extremely low budget movie, with even lower production values. I wouldn’t doubt that Ed Wood, Jr. found great inspiration in this film.
The major redeeming quality of this picture is Bela Lugosi’s (Dracula, Bride of the Monster) portrayal of the mad scientist. He hams it up to the hilt, and delivers some of the hokiest lines uttered in the history of cinema. He is especially enjoyable while wearing his goofy goggles (see image above).
The “special effects” are atrocious, and include one of the phoniest bats I have ever seen in any B-movie. Ironically, the “hoax bat” (conjured up by an ambitious photographer in the film) looks decidedly more real.
Though this movie isn’t spectacular on any level, it does hold some camp value. I would definitely recommend it to Lugosi fans, and it is worth at least one viewing for others even casually interested in the genre.
The Devil Bat is directed by Jean Yarbrough.
Scene to watch for: Lugosi listens intently for a heartbeat from a ridiculously fake bat.
Line to listen for: “Imbecile! Bombastic ignoramus!”
Trivia: You may recognize the male lead of Devil Bat (Dave O’Brien) as Ralph Wiley from the cult classic, Reefer Madness.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ½