**** Out of 5
Tagline- Sharp Fanged Blood Sucking Death Dives from Midnight Skies
Release Date- December 13th, 1940
Running Time- 68-Minutes
Screenplay- John Thomas Neville
Director- Jean Yarbrough
Starring- Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Dave O’Brien, Donald Kerr
The Devil Bat released in 1940 will never go down as one of the greats of the horror genre, but it is a really fun film with an absurd plot however the film has a sense of humor and is as much a comedy as it is horror. While some of the comedy might be unintentional the good bulk however is. By this point in Bela Lugosi’s career he was pretty much making films for Poverty Row with a few Hollywood films here and there. Though even the Hollywood films he did in the 40s some were non-speaking or a bit role (The Wolf Man) and in some cases these Hollywood films like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man despite being made by Universal has all the elements of a B-Movie.
Dr. Dr. Paul Carruthers (Lugosi) is a chemist who came up with a product that made his employers millions. However before it sold Paul took a buyout and after it sold he stood to make no money now. Angry and bitter, Paul creates a lotion and trains his bats, which he mutated to kill on scent to seek revenge on his employers for not giving him more money.
The screenplay by John Thomas Neville is a total blast. The whole plot is quite absurd and Neville writes a script filled with a lot of comedy and also crafts some really solid and entertaining characters. The script may not be great, but it is a lot of fun and really at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.
Director Jean Yarbrough delivers a really fun and campy film with excellent pacing. From the opening until the closing Yarbrough keeps the pace moving nicely. While Devil Bat is light on suspense it’s more than made for it the fun factor. The bat attack scenes were quite funny and I’m not totally sure if it was intentional or not like many other scenes, which are played for camp. Regardless, Yarbrough crafts a really fun film that I like a lot more than perhaps I should.
Bela Lugosi for the most part plays his role straight while others ham it up a bit, but it actually works well. This is actually one of my favorite Lugosi performances. Sure it’s not Count Dracula or Ygor, but is still a really great and fun performance.
Overall the Devil Bat is a really fun film with a great performance from Lugosi and while this isn’t exactly a horror classic its a truly entertaining film.