The Devil Bat (1940)

Directed by Jean Yarborough
Cinematography Arthur Martinelli, A.S.C.

The Devil Bat is a 1940 black-and-white American horror film produced by Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) and directed by Jean Yarborough. The film stars Bela Lugosi along with Suzanne Kaaren, Guy Usher, Yolande Mallott and the comic team of Dave O’Brien and Donald Kerr as the protagonists. It was the first horror film from PRC.

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The story involves a small town cosmetic company chemist (Lugosi) who is upset at his wealthy employers, because he feels they have denied him his due share of company success. To get revenge, he breeds giant bats. He then conditions them to kill those wearing a special after-shave lotion he has concocted. He cleverly distributes the lotion to his enemies as a “test” product.

Once they have applied the lotion, the chemist then releases his Devil Bats in the night, which kill his two former partners and three members of their families. A hot shot big city reporter gets assigned by his editor to cover and help solve the murders. He (O’Brien) and his bumbling photographer (Kerr) begin to unwind the mystery with some comic sidelights. The mad chemist is, predictably, done in by his own shaving lotion, and by his own creation—the dreaded Devil Bat.

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This was the first, and most successful, horror film from Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) after it was formed from the failed Producers Distrubuting Corporation (PDC). Filming began October 28 1940. A Classic Whodunit for Lugosi Fans

1 August 2002 | by daytimer59 (Baltimore, Maryland) – See all my reviews

I always watch this Lugosi classic with affection, and I don’t agree with its detractors. Here’s another bit of harmless detective drama, unusual in the fact that the law teams up with reporters to solve a mystery (imagine that today). Inexpensively made to be sure, and with a sound track that turned up in later thrillers, “Devil Bat” is subtle humor mixed with the obvious. Is there any doubt as to the outcome? Dave O’Brien and Donald Kerr are delightful as the reporter-photographer team, respectively, and the casting is on the money. Except the big mystery for me is that the coroner shows up in the credits but not in the film! Go figure.

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It’s got a big furry bat on a string whose face mysteriously moves only during close-ups. Stock footage, perhaps? Why certainly. Are all bats attracted to the scent of killer perfume? Absolutely not, but The Devil Bat is! I can understand some of the bad reviews, as this type of cheaply made horror film is not for everyone, but if you’re the type of person who enjoys Ed Wood type movies, then The Devil Bat is the heavenly hell you are looking for. This film is also notable for having Bela Lugosi in it. Bela has performed in several cheapo movies like this in his career, (many say The Devil Bat was the beginning of this phase), but he always puts on an a-picture performance in a z-picture product. Bela appropriately hams it up, alternately making dramatic pauses and facial contortions to either dramatic or comedic effect. Well, what are you people still doing here? I have said what needs to be said.

My 10 rating is for entertainment value, not great film-making.

Goodbye, IMDb readers…………………

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Bela shows true acting skill!

6/10
Author: mmcclelland from Hollywood
2 November 2000
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

All too often, in his career, Bela Lugosi was expected to carry a film all by himself with little or no help from other actors, the director, the script or special effects. The Devil Bat (1941) is such a movie. The sets are cheap, the script is hokey and the “devil bat” itself is laughably lame (a screeching bird-like creature — as fake as they come) . And yet as he always does, Bela makes the movie entertaining. He plays one of his many mad scientists — this one a (believe it or not) perfume maker who was monetarily wronged by his partners, now millionaires. These ungrateful boobs rub this in a little too much and so Lugosi creates a giant bat (as perfume makers are so good at doing) that will strike at anyone wearing a certain scent. Predictably the mad doctor ends up wearing his own scent and is killed by the devil bat — but not before he gets his revenge on several of these boring unknown actors who deserve to die. As expected, Lugosi makes the character interesting, complex and even sympathetic — and yet also fearsome as he tells each of his victims, “goodbye” after they try on his new fragrance. This movie has some of the most hackneyed character acting you have ever seen — and yet Bela never stops giving it all he’s got to make this movie a success — which is more than the movie deserves!

Still, for the Bela Lugosi fan, this movie is pleasurable as you watch what one great and talented actor can do in one bad movie. One is left wondering how a Tom Cruise or Will Smith would fare in such a weak vehicle. But Bela — ever the artist — rises above it and gives a performance that can be enjoyed in spite of its trappings.

That’s acting!

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Lesson – giant bats and Tibetan aftershave don’t mix! Horror legend Lugosi makes this third rate material fun.

Author: Infofreak from Perth, Australia
10 February 2004

Bela Lugosi will always be remembered as one of the greatest horror stars of all time for ‘Dracula’. Less than ten years later he was forced to star in third rate material like ‘The Devil Bat’. He had supporting roles in a couple of good movies like ‘The Wolf Man’ (with Lon Chaney and Claude Rains) and ‘The Body Snatcher’ (with Karloff) after this, but for the most part his career was in severe decline, culminating in the awful (but awfully entertaining) movies he made with Ed Wood, Jr. (‘Glen Or Glenda’, ‘Bride Of The Monster’ and very briefly, ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’) ‘The Devil Bat’ is b-grade all the way, with a lousy script, uninspired direction, a ridiculous looking “devil bat”, and a forgettable supporting cast, led by ‘Reefer Madness’ Dave O’Brien.

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The only reason to watch this is Lugosi. Sometimes he seems to be actually trying, at others he hams it up. Either way he’s great to watch. He plays a scientist who works for a hugely successful perfume company. In his laboratory he experiments on a bat with electricity which makes it grow very large, and that, combined with his new aftershave which contains a Tibetan scent which enrages the bat(!), becomes his method or vengeance on his employers. You think I’m making this up, don’t you? Look, this is a silly movie, but if you’re a Lugosi fan you’ll have fun.

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