Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


THE DEVIL BAT (1940). Director: Jean Yarbrough.

The town of Heath believes that Dr. Paul Carruthers (Bela Lugosi) is a kind-hearted soul who wouldn't hurt a fly, but he secretly harbors hatred for the Heath family who grew rich on his formulas when he foolishly accepted cash instead of a percentage. His method of revenge is bizarre to say the least. He has used electricity to create a gigantic bat, about ten times the size of a normal bat, and sends if off after his victims by using a special shaving lotion that attracts the bloodthirsty animal. When each victim tells the doctor good-night or farewell, he grimly intones "Goodbye." The Devil Bat is hard to take seriously but it is a fun movie, with a better performance from Lugosi than the picture probably deserves. Lugosi's portrait of a man whose bitterness has nearly driven him insane but who hides it beneath an avuncular manner, is dead-on. The other actors don't seem to matter much next to Lugosi but they include Dave O'Brien [Captain Midnight] as a reporter, Donald Kerr as his photographer, Suzanne Kaaren as Mary Heath, and John Ellis and Alan Baldwin as her brothers. When the photographer tricks up a fake Devil bat to fool his editor, it doesn't look much worse than the "real" thing, a mock-up inter-cut with close-ups of a bat's mouth. This was essentially remade six years later as The Flying Serpent with George Zucco. Followed by Devil Bat's Daughter. From  poverty row studio PRC.

Verdict: Bela goes bats! **1/2.


angelman66 said...

I love Mr. Lugosi, but gosh he made a LOT of obscure films! I love how he just as often played a supporting character as a lead, and could play either villain or hero...
He was so very jealous of his frequent costar Karloff who got a lot of respect and kept working steadily when Lugosi could not longer get jobs in the film business...tragic...
- Chris

William said...

What makes it worse is that some feel Lugosi was the better actor. He's often dismissed as hammy but he actually could be quite powerful and effective even in the most mediocre movies.

As always, Chris, thanks so much for your interesting comments!