Monday, 2 November 2015

Film Review (B Movie) - The Devil Bat (Jean Yarbrough, 1940)

Fig 1. The Devil Bat Poster.

The Devil Bat is a film about a scientist who creates perfumes for a company. He feels cheated by the company and the family who runs it as he sold his share in the company before it became hugely successful. He mutates bats and uses them to seek revenge on the family using an aftershave that the bats are attracted to. After the news of mysterious deaths reaches the press, they send a couple of reporters out to the area to investigate and get a story for the newspaper. After many family members are murdered by the bats, one of the reporters comes to the realization that the doctor is the killer and the aftershave is luring the bats. He convinces the doctor to accompany him out to the family's manor, where, when they are sitting outside, the reporter splashes the doctor with his own aftershave. Shortly after, one of his mutated bats appears and kills him.

There are a few key factors in this film that make it stand out as a B-movie. The first and perhaps the most obvious, is the 'Devil Bat' monster. It isn't particularly convincing as a living creature when shown up close and its actions are clumsy and simple. The character of the doctor has what appears to be a Transylvanian accent, which is very poorly executed and takes away from the experience of the film. The story itself is also very predictable and simple, a clever scientist seeks revenge against the family who wronged him and is thwarted by one of his own creations.

Fig 2. The Doctor's Lab.

Despite its obvious flaws, this film does have some redeeming features. The 'Devil Bat' itself may not be convincing close up but it is readable as a bat at a distance. The scenes have clearly been worked with thoroughly to make sure you never get a clear shot of the bat in motion, this does assist in the illusion that the strange flying creature is in fact some kind of monster. To their credit it is only when the bat is stationary in the lab that it be not look very natural, additionally, footage of a real bat is used when they want a close-up of the creature.

The story may be short and ultimately unimaginative, but it also doesn't waste time with scenes that don't correlate with the story and have no relevance. It has a running time of just over an hour and in that time, the story doesn't feel rushed or stretched. For what the film is, it does well to play to its strengths and tell a story as best it can.

Illustration List

Yarbrough, J (1940) Figure 1. The Devil Bat Poster. (Accessed on 27/10/15)

Yarbrough, J (1940) Figure 2. The Doctor's Lab. (Accessed on 02/11/15)

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