Bela Lugosi

Wicked Wednesday: The Devil Bat (1940)

Bela Lugosi is one of horror’s greatest treasures. He was a wonderfully charismatic actor, and one was of the most iconic faces and voices of the genre. I find that even if the film is lacklustre, Lugosi brings an enormous presence to the screen (I’m look at you, Plan 9).

There are only so many men that pull off talking to a stuffed back and make it menacing. Think I’m lying? Just watch The Devil Bat.

Paul Carruthers (Lugosi) is the much-loved doctor in the village of Heathville. Unbeknown to them, the doctor is conducting horrible experiments in his laboratory. His goal? To enlarge bats to exact his revenge.

Being a successful chemist, Carruthers worked on products that made his employers millions. But Carruthers remains relatively poor, especially compared to the luxury of the men who write his checks. Though in fairness, Carruthers sounds like he doesn’t have a mind for business – he took an early payout instead of staying on as a partner in the company. Deal with your own actions, buddy!

Coincidentally, it’s a check that sends him over the edge. When he receives a check for $5,000 as a “bonus” from his boss, he decides to let one of his boss’s test his new product: a “shaving lotion”. Only the shaving lotion’s smell lures the doctor’s giant, trained bat.

Soon the boy is found murdered by something with claws. Reporters are brought in to investigate the murder, only to discover that more murders in the same fashion are occurring.

The premise for The Devil Bat is simple. A man is mad. Man becomes mad. Mad man makes killer bat. Mad man with killer bat is killed by killer bat. Such is the circle of life.

Sure, this little movie is a bit hokey. The bat is laughably fake, but I always admire a good practical effect. It’s clear that the film is at least trying, which makes it all the more endearing. This was apparently meant to be Lugosi’s comeback film. I adore him here. He comes off as a complex character despite the script being fairly standard.

The Devil Bat is now in the public domain. So there really is no excuse not to watch this.