Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Devil Bat: Don't forget the after shave!

By Steve D. Stones

Here’s another quickie released by PRC Studios (Producers Releasing Corporation) and directed by Jean Yarbrough starring Bela Lugosi as Dr. Paul Carruthers. Carruthers lives in a small town called Heathville, named after the Heath family, who Carruthers once worked for. Carruthers perfected a shave lotion for the Heath Family Company and settled for a $10,000 award from the company for his invention. The company went on to make millions from the product.

The Heath family is holding a party to celebrate the engagement of their son Roy. Carruthers is invited to the party, but does not attend. He is busy in his laboratory conducting experiments on a giant bat and perfecting another shave lotion. He plans on seeking revenge on the Heath family for the company making millions off his invention. Little does he know that the Heath family wanted to present him with a $5,000 check that evening to help compensate for some of his lost profits on the product.

Roy Heath arrives at Carruthers’ home that evening to present the check to him personally. Although Carruthers is happy to receive the check, he still wants to execute his diabolical plan of murdering members of the Heath family to seek his revenge. He convinces Roy to try some of his newest shave lotion. Roy leaves and is attached by a giant bat launched from Carruthers’ attic. The bat, killing him instantly, severed his jugular vein. The bat is instantly attracted to the scent of the shave lotion.

Johnny Layton, a newspaper reporter, is assigned to the case of covering Roy Heath’s murder. Dave O’Brien, star of the 1930s cult classic Reefer Madness, plays Layton. Johnny’s boss informs him that the bite on Roy’s neck could have been from the talons or beak of a large bird, and that mouse hairs were also discovered on his body. Layton suggests that the mouse hairs indicate that it could have been a giant bat that attacked Roy.

Tommy Heath, Roy’s brother, is the next victim of the devil bat. The bat is shot and killed while attacking Tommy. Layton’s photographer, played by Donald Kerr, star of Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars, stages a fake photo of the devil bat for newspaper publicity by taking a picture of a toy bat on a wire. Layton’s boss later discovers that the photo was a fake, so he fires both Layton and the photographer.

Henry Morton, also an employee of the Heath family company, is the next victim, attacked by a second devil bat. Layton suspects that Carruthers must be the murderer because all the victims of the devil bat had his after shave lotion on their necks at the time of their deaths.

To try and trap Carruthers, Layton asks him if he can try some of his shave lotion, and asks Carruthers to sit outside on a park bench and wait for the devil bat to attack him. Carruthers is reluctant to join him, but later agrees to wait for the bat. While waiting, Layton quickly splashes the shave lotion on Carruthers, and the devil bat attacks, killing Carruthers.

Most film encyclopedias give this film a very bad rating, which is unfortunate. I urge you not to trust what critics say about this film. The expressions on Lugosi’s face when he watches his victims splash the shave lotion on their necks and then tells them goodbye is quite priceless. Lugosi’s gaze of looking through the window of his laboratory with goggles on as he watches the lab instruments jolt the giant bat is also quite a delight to watch. You can say whatever you want about Lugosi’s low-budget films made by Monogram and PRC, but Lugosi was a man who could get into any role and play it very well. Don’t miss The Devil Bat!

Legend Films has recently released a colorized version of the film. I prefer the black and white version much better. Careful with the shave lotion you use this morning!

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

I loved the film noir effect of venetian blinds shadowed on the wall.

He is having way too much fun torturing his pet bat with electricity. PETA would stop him cold from "deviling" that poor bat.

So, after all these bat experiments, did he name his new shaving lotion, "Lectric Shave"?

All joking aside, I have seen this movie and enjoyed it very much. Good review Steve!