The Devil Bat

The Devil Bat is currently available on Amazon Prime.

The Devil Bat (1940)

“Dr. Carruthers feels bitter at being betrayed by his employers, Heath and Morton, when they became rich as a result of a product he devised.”

The Devil Bat is yet still another horror quickie where Lugosi was the only actor of note in the production. Not to say that the other actors are bad but that they are merely window dressing for Lugosi’s performance. Lugosi is at his best when he is gloating over a victim and here he gets to do that many times.

Lugosi plays Dr. Paul Carruthers. Dr. Carruthers must never sleep because not only is he the kindly village doctor but he also develops fragrances for a cosmetics company and has a hidden laboratory where he raises giant bats for nefarious purposes. We get lots of wonderful shots of him feeding and talking to his bats, often while wearing goggles and operating sparking scientific machinery.

I love that Carruthers wants to destroy his enemies because he feels they cheated him out of a fortune yet he was actually the one who cheated himself. The owners of the company try to buy him off with a $5,000 bonus check but that only adds gasoline to the fire. I also love that every time someone says good night to him, he says goodbye.

Dave O’Brien plays Johnny Layton here. He is enshrined in bad movie history (no not for this movie!) as the only person to overdose smoking pot in Reefer Madness )aka Tell Your Children). He frantically orders “Play it faster! Play it faster!”. Later he would find fame in the Pete Smith shorts for MGM. He would finish his career as a writer on The Red Skelton Show.

Yes, the special effects are completely laughable. The giant bats vary wildly in size from shot to shot and descend on wires. When they attack, the actors hold them on. It is still a fun movie.

The Devil Bat is not much more than Lugosi alternately gloating while rubbing his hands together, being suggestively menacing, and playing his kindly doctor persona. On the other hand it is just a little over an hour and Lugosi is superb. Thankfully the print and sound are much better than White Zombie.

Sequelitis: This picture was so successful for PRC that they made both a sequel and a reboot in 1946. The sequel is titled Devil Bat’s Daughter and it is not really a sequel. The main character, Nina MacCaron, is the daughter of Josephine MacCaron and Dr. Paul Carruthers. The tale has very little to do with the original although it does have some bats.

The reboot of sorts is The Flying Serpent. George Zucco, the poor man’s Lugosi, plays Dr. Andrew Forbes. Dr. Forbes realizes that he can kill his enemies by planting a feather of Quetzalcoatl on them. Quetzalcoatl will then track them down and kill them.

“Its name is Quetzalcoatl… just call it Q, that’s all you’ll have time to say before it tears you apart!” (tagline from Q – the other Quetzalcoatl movie).