It has finally happened! Let us rejoice!
For the first time this year, I watched a horror movie that wasn’t familiar territory. And I’m glad I did. I think I unintentionally burnt myself out last year by trying to top my own record of what I watched and it took so much out of me. So it’s been months, almost half the year, to at least get back to experiencing a new movie and Sunday (6/19), that happened.
This film was chosen because a) it was on dvd and I didn’t have to go search for it on streaming, b) it’s a shorter film, maybe an hour and 12 minutes and c) the iconic Bela Lugosi stars in this film.
I’m gonna review the 1940 black and white film, The Devil Bat, released with PRC which is the Producers Releasing Corporation.
Let’s get into it!
The best highlight is obviously Bela Lugosi. It was so hard to differentiate this role from his Dracula role but I really enjoyed what he brought into the role as Dr. Paul Carruthers. He plays the charismatic yet manic scientist well. He comes off as a calm, cool, collected, respectable doctor but you can see that underneath there is a darkness to him. He loves what he does but that sinister quality comes out more and more when the film progresses.
I like the concept of this film. Simple, especially for the 40s when we are venturing further into sci-fi, B level tier horror but also Universal Pictures is doing very well and we’re incorporating more thriller, fear and mystery into the genre. So I want you guys to be aware of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Cat People, The Creeper and the endless amounts of Universal horror sequels (or in relation to the characters). But back to the plot of the film, Dr. Carruthers is using his enemies as an experiment with enlarging bats, using his enemies as the victims who use a lotion “cologne” and the bats pick up on it to strike.
I also liked the supportive cast as well. I think they helped round out the cast and provide different needed roles such as a wise talking, serious detective and his more goofier sidekick. We have a beautiful lead actress who does more than the typical damsel in distress, she has a bit more of a role as well. Though it becomes monotonous after a while.
Now the biggest hiccups I have, I can’t keep against the film. This was in the 40s, and filmmaking is much different now than it was then. The film itself is in okay condition to watch. There were moments of underexposure to over, the lighting was all over the place and sometimes it would be too dark to see what was happening. I did have a laugh when the giant bat attacked and it’s clearly on wire but it had to have been shot on a different day because it would be lit or daytime when someone’s being attacked at night.
And also, I tend to feel almost unfulfilled by the ending. Spoiler alert if you do not want to know what happens!
3, 2, 1.
Carruthers’ death felt kind of empty. Yes, he was indeed the bad guy and goodness prevailed because ALL movies around this time (not just the 40s), was all about the good guy winning, the damsel in distress is saved, it feels like it should have concluded. But I look at my feelings towards The Mummy (1932) or House of Wax (1953) and when the end just abruptly ends on this “close up shot of damsel and hero hugging” and it ends. And I was like “what?”
I love how they don’t give any explanation, no last final thoughts as a collective, just “okay he’s dead let’s move on” and it’s always a bit jarring. But I know that once again I can’t hold that against it because of how films and scripts just were back then.
Horror has grown and evolved so much since the 1940s and you can see it throughout the later decades. Now we get endings of either party losing, sometimes the film ends ambiguous or on a sour note, the bad guy wins, further details are explained for the audience plus themes can range from all over the place. The 40s to me come off as science, transformation into a creature or a monster, encountering the strange and unusual but there’s a big indent of creature features, or the beginning stages of it becoming popular.
The Devil Bat is an otherwise okay movie, a cool 70 some odd minutes, but don’t expect too much of it. It’s simple, I’d recommend it if you’re a fan of older horror, especially pre-60s. Or if you wanna see more of Lugosi’s films, go for it. I’d give it… a 3 out of 5. It’s really about Lugosi, let’s be real.
The film stars Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Guy Usher, Yolande Mallott, Dave O’Brien and Donald Kerr and directed by Jean Yarborough.