Time for another movie from the Legends Of Horror set and another Bela Lugosi movie. Sometimes, you just can’t get away from what made you famous. Now, even though there are no vampires in this movie, you know that the studio was banking on Lugosi’s fame from Dracula to help boost attendance for this movie. So let’s see if that theory worked with today’s movie, The Devil Bat.
The plot: In the town of Heathville, Dr. Paul Carruthers is working in his secret lab at his house when he heads up a hidden passage to a room where he has been breeding giant bats. Carruthers grabs one of the bats and takes it to another room, where he begins experimenting on it with electricity. He is interrupted by a telephone call from Martin Heath, one of the owners of the cosmetic company that Carruthers works for. Martin invites Carruthers to a gathering that he and Henry Morton, the other owner of the company, are throwing and Carruthers refuses at first but then agrees to come when he hears it is for Martin’s daughter Mary. Returning to the room with the bat, Carruthers holds a sample of a new after shave up to the bat, causing it to react violently, and Carruthers says that the bat will attack anything wearing that fragrance. At the Morton’s house, Henry and Martin plan on giving Carruthers a bonus check for 5000 dollars and as Martin goes to call Carruthers and find out why he is late, Henry tells his son Don and Martin’s kids (Tommy, Roy, and Mary) not to say anything about the check to Carruthers. Martin comes back and says that Carruthers isn’t coming, having gotten to involved in his research and lost track of time, so Roy goes to take the check to him. At Carruthers’s house, Roy hands the check to Carruthers, who appears a little disappointed in it, and Carruthers has Roy try the new after shave lotion that he is working on. After Roy leaves, Carruthers gets upset, feeling that Henry and Martin are not paying him what he is worth, so he releases his bats to attack Roy. One of the bats kills Roy and severs his jugular before flying off. A Chicago newspaper hears about the mysterious murder and sends reporter Johnny Layton and his cameraman, “One-Shot” McGuire, to report on the story. Johnny and McGuire head to Heathville and speak to Police Chief Wilkins, who gives him the details they know about the death. Telling them about Carruthers’ theory of it being an animal attack, Wilkins says that there are claw marks around the neck and Johnny suggests it could be a bat, but Wilkins says that the only bats in the area are the size of a sparrow. The next day, Johnny and McGuire go to see Mary and speak with both her and Carruthers. That night, Tommy Heath goes to Carruthers’ lab, where Carruthers has him try out his new after shave. Tommy returns home to find Johnny and McGuire staking out the garden in hopes of spotting the creature responsible for the death, with Mary accompanying them. When Tommy is attacked and killed by the bat, Mary and Johnny see it and Johnny tries shooting it with his pistol. When Don Morton is killed, McGuire tries to stage a picture of the giant bat for the paper but they get called out for the fraud and fired. Johnny speaks with Wilkins, who is trying to analyze the contents of a bottle that Tommy had and Johnny decides to take it with him. Johnny gives it to McGuire to use and the Devil Bat tries to attack him but Johnny manages to kill it. With the bat dead, Johnny and McGuire are vindicated and they are given their jobs back at the paper and told to come back but they choose to stay, as Johnny has grown fond of Mary. The next day, Carruthers creates a second giant bat to use as a weapon, then goes to visit Henry at his office. He manages to convince Henry to try his new lotion and after he leaves, Henry calls Martin and says he has a theory about the killer, but doesn’t say anything else as Carruthers returns to the office to get his hat. Carruthers heads to the Heath house and opens the trunk of his car to release the Devil Bat, which kills Henry when he arrives. Johnny has his suspicions about Carruthers and thinks that he is killing the members of the Morton and Heath families. When the bat tries to kill Mary, Johnny has Mary, Martin, and McGuire distract Carruthers while he goes to check out his house. Johnny manages to find Carruthers’ secret lab and the room with the bats, then sees Carruthers release the bats into the sky to avoid having them found in his house. Johnny quickly leaves, then goes back to Carruthers’ house and invites him to join him in watching for the bat that tried to attack Mary. As they are in the garden, the bat appears and Johnny tries to shoot it but Carruthers stops him. Wilkins appears and shoots at the bat, chasing it off, and Carruthers leaves during the confusion. Mary sees Carruthers, who has her follow him but as they are leaving, the bat attacks and kills Carruthers, then goes after Mary but Johnny and Wilkins manage to kill it, then Johnny tells Mary that Carruthers was behind the deaths of her brothers and the Mortons.
The Devil Bat met with mixed results from the critics, holding a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, many critics praised Lugosi’s performance in the movie. The movie was the first horror movie from PRC (Producers Releasing Company) and also the beginning of Lugosi’s come back as he signed a contract to star in the movie.
This was a surprisingly good movie to watch. The acting was decent, with Lugosi doing a great job in his role as Carruthers. Suzanne Kaaren (Mary) was great in her role and Donald Kerr (McGuire) made for some rather funny comedic moments, but Dave O’Brien (Johnny) was a little odd as he would bounce back and forth between joking and serious, making it hard to take him serious when he was being serious. The story was pretty good, with a pretty solid plot but sometimes the setups for the murders just seemed half thought out. The special effects were pretty cheap, with several scenes of the bat flying simply being reused over and over. Nothing really iconic with the movie, but a solid classic movie none the less.
Rating: 3 out of 5