• Devil Bat, The

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: September 17th, 2013.
    Director: Jean Yarborough
    Cast: Bela Lugosi,
    Guy Usher, Edward Mortimer, Suzanne Kaaren
    Year: 1940
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    The Movie:

    They don't call these films poverty row for nothing folks. This 1940's ridiculously cheap horror flick has a couple of things going for it though. An irresistibly idiotic concept and the slightly fallen but still awesome Bela Lugosi as the lead makes this one a lot of fun.

    That concept? Get a load of this - Dr. Carruthers (Bela Lugosi) has been screwed by his business associates. The unseemly Morton and Heath (Guy Usher and Edward Mortimer) have been getting stinking rich with their beauty products company that relies on Carruthers' chemical formulas. But they aren't cutting the good doctor in on the windfall. Revenge will be his! Turns out our ripped off friend has a secret lab where he breeds killer bats. These bats work on a homing device concept tied to a special aftershave that Carruthers gives to his unsuspecting victims. Voila! Bat senses cheesy aftershave, swoops down and slashes throat. Next!

    Of course we can't be wrapping this thing up in ten minutes so Lugosi's nutty goggle loving doc starts off whacking some dispensable Morton and Heath relatives but soon he has another problem. A subplot involving a couple of nosy reporters - Johnny Layton and 'One Shot' Maguire (Dave O'Brien and Donald Kerr) and an attractive young girl that's part of the Heath clan (Suzanne Kaaren). As the dimwits pick up the mad doctor's trail it's a race against time. Carruthers is going for the jugular against these meddlers - will he triumph? Give it seventy minutes for the answer, people.

    What makes THE DEVIL BAT so darn entertaining is Bela. He's got loads of dialog and delivers it like he gives a damn. He's obviously enjoying himself and it shows. The set design, especially in the secret lab is total dime store Whale Frankenstein but it looks good. And while the bat effects are frankly horrendous - chicken wire and immobile rubber never looked dumber - the sound effects are prime Gorgonzola. Worship the metallic screech, evil doers! And hand it to these boys for good inserts - the nature doc shots of that nasty-ass drooling real life fruit bat are juicily sickening. Squelch!

    DEVIL BAT? I kind of love you.


    This was a public domain title for decades and has received atrocious treatment in the ensuing years - much like another Lugosi film WHITE ZOMBIE. So while Kino's fullframe AVC encoded transfer certainly won't be winning any a/v awards it looks miles better than ANY previous version. Since the producers had access to archival 35mm elements DEVIL BAT actually has some decent image clarity here. And unlike the recent WHITE ZOMBIE debacle this one hasn't been DNR'd to a smeary mess. In typical Kino fashion however (see their Jean Rollin titles) there has been no image cleanup so expect debris and specks and print damage. It isn't overwhelming though and for me personally it adds to the charm.

    The English language LPCM Mono track on offer is acceptable though flawed. Shallow and sometimes hissy it is still perfectly audible. You won't have any trouble following along. Look - this is an almost 75 year old film. Keep that in mind.

    The main extra is a terrific Richard Harland Smith commentary track. Smith knows his stuff and walks you through the history of the film, the players involved and a nice overview of the whole poverty row phenomenon. He's a fan and declines useless MST3K style snark. Indeed he's a pretty strong defender of this little film. It's an attitude I like to see - as silly as a lot of THE DEVIL BAT is it remains a fun film that a few of the people involved in the creation of cared about. Lugosi included.

    You also get a black and white still gallery and a WHITE ZOMBIE trailer.

    The Final Word:

    A completely worthy edition of a criminally abused public domain title, Kino's THE DEVIL BAT is a must have for classic horror fans. It's dumb fun and Lugosi is a hoot. Swoop in on this one and put it in your batty talons, folks. But easy on the aftershave and for God's sake don't dab that stuff on your jugular.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      It does look a lot better than the PD copy that I have on DVD, which is like trying to watch the film through a bedsheet. Nice review.