Written by: Carroll Jenkins on October 20th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1940
Director: Jean Yarbrough
Writer: John T. Neville
Cast: Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Dave O’Brien, Guy Usher, Yolande Donlan, Donald Kerr
DVD released: October 21st, 2008
Approximate running time: 68 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Legend Films
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
Synopsis: Bela Lugosi is a disgruntled research scientist for a perfume company but he doesn’t think his royalties are royal enough. So he invents an aftershave lotion that will cause his devil bat to go for the jugular vein of his victims.
PRC was a poverty row studio that released a few laudable films such as Detour and Strangler of the Swamp almost despite themselves. With Devil Bat they successfully take the worn mad scientist formula and produce a rather slick little thriller.
Bela Lugosi plays his role with his usual gusto. His hidden laboratory is well appointed, and he has to pass through THREE secret doors to get to it. Of course his giant devil bat looks pretty silly and the ‘close-ups’ are all of a live bat, but the attacks are well staged and the body count is high (especially in proportion to the size of the cast).
The most incredible thing about this film is the notion that the police chief would allow a reporter from the big city to walk in and take over the case with a completely free hand. Next to that the devil bat premise is perfectly believable. The script is quite acceptable, providing good pacing and some sharp dialog. The comic relief photographer is actually funny and not relegated entirely to sarcastic quips. While some of his antics are solely for humor (taking cheesecake photos of the French maid), others are integral to the plot.
The colorization seems rather pointless, but the presentation of the restored B&W is quite nice and flagged for progressive scan. Sound quality is reasonable and closed captions are provided. This is one of Lugosi’s better roles, and the presentation by Legend is quite enjoyable. Compare the picture quality to a copy of the The Human Monster (any version) and see if you don’t agree.