THE DEVIL BAT (1940) Reviews and overview

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‘Sharp fanged blood sucking death dives from midnight skies!’

The Devil Bat is a 1940 American horror feature film directed by Jean Yarbrough (Hillbillys in a Haunted House; The Creeper; She-Wolf of London; House of Horrors) from a screenplay written by John Thomas Neville (The Flying Serpent), based on a story by George Bricker. It was produced by Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) and was also released as Killer Bats


In 1946, a sequel titled Devil Bat’s Daughter was released and The Flying Serpent (also 1946), starring George Zucco, reworked elements of the story. The movie stars Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Guy Usher, Yolande Mallott, and the comic team of Dave O’Brien and Donald Kerr.


” …the dialogue in The Devil Bat isn’t particularly well-written, which becomes obvious when anyone other than Lugosi tries to deliver it. As he’s done many times before, Bela Lugosi brings an air of respectability to a film that, without him, would have quickly drifted into obscurity.” 2,500 Movies Challenge

“It’s not hard to see why the whole affair became something of a cult classic in the ensuing, public-domain-ridden years, between Legosi, an absurd plot, a number of stiff performances, and a French maid, and I suppose those elements hold up well enough but are presented with so little enthusiasm that they become largely neutered.” Battleship Pretension

The Devil Bat is in the same league as the likes of The Vampire Bat, though it doesn’t seem to take itself so seriously. Whilst thoroughly ludicrous, it is also pretty solid entertainment and, at a skimpy 72 minutes, far from outstays its welcome […] Endearing hokum.” Behind the Couch

“Everything about The Devil Bat is mediocre. The B-list actors hamming up their over-obvious dialogue. The way the same footage of the bat emerging from Carruthers’ window is recycled multiple times. The cornball rubber-bat-on-a-string “special” effects and the creature’s obnoxious shriek, which sounds conspicuously like a monkey’s.”

“Despite […] bargain-basement flourishes, The Devil Bat has a sublimely weird ambience and is unquestionably mesmerizing, due in large part to Lugosi’s intensely creepy performance as a man driven to murder by his warped sense of wounded pride.” DVD Beaver

“The preposterous story is great fun, as Lugosi bumbles in his secret lab and makes ironic comments to the young men slapping his lotion on their necks: “Over the jugular, please!” […] A reporter and his sidekick take on the job of tracking down the monster bat; Yolande Donlan (Director Val Guest’s longtime spouse) is a saucy French maid. But the show is Lugosi’s all the way.” DVD Savant

“As dire a PRC film as you could hope to see, with script, settings and acting and direction barely good enough to look like a movie and certainly more risible than horrific.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook (Batsford, 1982)

” …has attained something of a reputation as a Golden Turkey classic. To be fair to it, Lugosi is on fine form and there are never any particularly bad dialogue howlers or unintentionally cheap laughs. It is all routinely delivered, however. The film features one of the tattiest looking screen bats ever.” Moria “An extreme close-up of a real bat is used to scare audiences, although you wonder if they were frightened by it, even in 1940. The mad scientist is always a great staple in the genre and Lugosi is in fine form here, taunting his victims and even daring the police to catch him, offering them small hints of truth when they ask him for advice.” Oh, the Horror!

The Devil Bat easily sizes up as one of the Bela Lugosi’s best low-budget films; it’s almost indisputably better than any of his Monogram movies. The storyline is colorfully lurid, the title creature is a rather exotic movie monster, the bat attacks are well-staged and Lugosi is amusingly intense as the mad doctor.” Tom Weaver, Poverty Row Horrors!


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“Let’s face it:  you can’t take The Devil Bat seriously. Not for a moment. But it is a lot of fun. Mostly because Bela is overacting like crazy. That isn’t always a good thing. But in this case, it makes all the difference.” Rivets on the Poster

“What makes The Devil Bat so darn entertaining is Bela. He’s got loads of dialog and delivers it like he gives a damn. He’s obviously enjoying himself and it shows. The set design, especially in the secret lab is total dime store Whale Frankenstein but it looks good. And while the bat effects are frankly horrendous – chicken wire and immobile rubber never looked dumber – the sound effects are prime Gorgonzola.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

“The action becomes repetitive, just one damn murder after another, but there are comedy interludes from the reporter and the photographer, as Johnny woos Mary and One-Shot wins over her French maid (and looks as though he’ll be taking saucy pictures of her, too). There are frequent montages of newspaper headlines to keep us certain of the plot details, complete with the shadow of a bat cast across them.” The Spinning Image

“Kooky, to be sure, but Lugosi gives it his all, and that’s good enough for us. Don’t read us wrong, The Devil Bat is no classic, but like 1942’s Bowery at Midnight, Lugosi lends the whole thing a certain…naive charm, the supporting cast is game, and the pacing runs along at an appropriate clip.” The Terror Trap

“Needless to say, Lugosi was always a far better actor than he has ever been given credit for being […] Much as he would in Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster, Lugosi brings an almost redemptive sadness to his mad scientist. The end result is that poor misunderstood and underestimated Bela elevates the entire film.” Through the Shattered Lens

” …Lugosi spends most of the film’s brief 68 minutes emoting like crazy, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, and telling soon-to-be victims to “rub it on the tender part of your neck” as they cover themselves in his bat attracting shaving lotion. When you pair up his hammy performance with the silly, bargain-basement effects of our giant bats flying in for the kill […] you’re sure to get some amusement out of this.” The Video Graveyard

Cast and characters:

Bela Lugosi … Doctor Paul Carruthers
Suzanne Kaaren … Mary Heath
Dave O’Brien … Johnny Layton
Guy Usher … Henry Morton
Yolande Donlan … Maxine (as Yolande Mallott)
Donald Kerr … ‘One-Shot’ McGuire
Edmund Mortimer … Martin Heath (as Edward Mortimer)
Gene O’Donnell … Don Morton
Alan Baldwin … Tommy Heath
John Ellis … Roy Heath
Arthur Q. Bryan … Joe McGinty
Hal Price … Chief Wilkins
John Davidson … Professor Raines
Billy Griffith … Coroner (scenes deleted)
Wally Rairden … Walter King (as Wally Rairdon)

Technical details:

68 minutes
Audio: Mono (RCA Sound System)
Black and white
Aspect ratio: 1.37: 1


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