{2jtab: Movie Review}

The Devil Bat (1940) - Blu-ray Review


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3 stars

Oh, Poverty Row and its horror show thrills!  The Devil Bat has returned!

Starring Bela Lugosi – who was in the middle of a comeback that would soon stall out – The Devil Bat is the ultimate statement concerning the ignored state of horror at the end of the 1930’s.  Released by Producers Releasing Corporation – a fresh-faced independent studio cranking out one low budget film after another – the film marks one of the first offerings of horror after years of neglect by major studios due to the genre’s “unwholesome” offerings.

Yes, folks, there was a time when horror was too vulgar; too unhealthy for the public; too “German” for American audiences.  The name Poverty Row – which is what PRC would become known as – would change all that.  And that’s where the sharp teeth of The Devil Bat and its terrifying wingspan come into play.

Directed by Jean Yarbrough (King of the Zombies, She-Wolf of London), the film focuses on the upper class citizens in the town of Heath and its resident chemist (Lugosi).  Upset that he’s not being financially rewarded by a local cosmetic company that is profiting off the formulas he makes for them, the mad chemist “grows” giant vampire bats and develops a shaving lotion that – once applied – helps the creatures locate their victims.  It is a big city news reporter and his bumbling photographer who must solve the mystery and catch the killers...all of them.

Co-starring Suzanne Kaaren, Dave O'Brien, and Donald Kerr, the horror film matches each of its scares with an attempt to lighten the mood with some obvious comedic moments that – while never unwelcome – just don’t quite seal the deal.  The resulting film is a bit uneven.  That’s not to suggest that the scares don’t cause goosebumps and the like.  They do; they just aren’t supported by the script by George Bricker and John T. Neville.

The Devil Bat, while quickly dropping from the public’s eye and landing in the public domain pile, was successful enough to warrant a sequel, Devil Bat’s Daughter, and resuscitate Lugosi’s career for a bit.  Roles like this are what he excels at; never too serious and never too complicated.  Lugosi, as the mad chemist Carruthers, is quite charming and villainous. Note the running gag of his response when his victims – unaware of their danger – say "good night" to him.  He replies with a cold "goodbye" as he watches them apply the after shave.

Yarbrough’s film is low budget nirvana.  The effects are pretty cheap.  The costumes are silly.  No set is monstrously over-adorned.  No star is super glamorous.  There are rough and ready edges all throughout the hour-long film.  Still, the film works.

Fun, feisty, and unafraid of Hollywood’ stance on horror, The Devil Bat achieves its landmark status by showing the big wig major studios how the horror genre should be done: elated madness.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The Devil Bat (1940) - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA.
68 mins
: Jean Yarbrough
Writer: John T. Neville
Cast: Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Dave O'Brien
Genre: Horror | Classic
He's Trained His Brood of Blood-Hungry Bats to Kill on Command!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Not so funny when it's your own jugular vein that's in danger. Is it, doc?"
Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC)
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 13, 1940
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 1, 2013

Synopsis: A mad scientist develops an aftershave lotion that causes his gigantic bats to kill anyone who wears it.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

The Devil Bat (1940) - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
3 stars

3 stars

Blu-ray Experience
3 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - October 1, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
: None
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: Region-free

The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer from a print rescued from the public domain is shockingly solid. The black-and-white image is great throughout, given the state of the original source material, and it looks better than thought possible. The contrast here is a bit hot, bleeding more white into the picture than one might expect or really like to see in this type of feature.  There is some natural wear and tear but, for the most part, the transfer and soundtrack – presented here in an English LPCM 2.0 Mono track – really look and sound as good as they ever have on home video.



  • There is a commentary with scholar Richard Harland Smith.  The scholar really lets his love for the film shine here in a charismatic and engaging commentary that is fun and insightful.

Special Features:

Kino Classics brings The Devil Bat to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc inside the standard blue keepcase. As the disc starts up, viewers are taken directly to a static main menu with music. There aren’t a lot of supplemental materials for this super B- cult film and that’s probably due to the low, low budget of the entire week-long shoot.

  • Still Gallery
  • White Zombie Trailer

{2jtab: Trailer}