Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Devil Bat (Kino Classics) Blu-ray Review - Sometimes You Bite the Bat. Sometimes the Bat Bites You.

Devil Bat is one of those movies that classic Universal fans fawn over (though this is not a Universal release). It stars Bela Lugosi as a mad scientists/chemist who creates a couple of killer bats to murder a small group of people that the good doctor wants removed from the mortal coil because he wasn’t compensated adequately for his services to them. Today, you just file a lawsuit claiming discrimination and get your pay day, but in the 1940’s, you created bats that KILLED PEOPLE and followed the aftershave (all be it very strong aftershave) that would lead the bats to their next victim. When people tell me that horror today is reaching for ideas, that it has become zany and almost wallows in its own self-referential humor… I point them to a movie like Devil Bat. Horror has always known how to have fun and be light hearted.

Now in reviewing this title and reading up on it I learned that Devil Bat was actually supposed to a horror comedy. That seems strange to me because I actually took it for a more serious early horror film when I was younger and even upon my most recent viewing. It seems that all Universal-esque titles of the time with an element of horror understood that the movie had to balance the terrifying and strange with an element of comedy. This is where a movie like Devil Bat can shine. It’s just off the wall enough to give you a few solid chuckles, but the bat… the giant bat monster that permeates that night to KILL… well it’s kinda scary if you watch the movie with the lights off and grab your kids shoulders every now and again and yell boo. Even Frankenstein had a few moments of slapstick chicanery.

You watch Devil Bat because you want to watch Bela Lugosi in something other than Dracula or other Universal Monster picture that has a tolerable production value. Producers Releasing Corporation may not have been the mark of quality but you occasionally got a watchable movie unlike other penny cinema offerings that imitated, poorly the art of filmmaking (I’m looking at you The Corpse Vanishes from Monogram Pictures). Director Jean Yarbrough goes on to direct King of the Zombies in 1941 (which actually went up for an Academy Award for music), House of Horrors in 1946 and She-Wolf of London in 1946.

Kino Classics has given you a chance to watch Devil Bat on Blu-ray. I can’t say the transfer is amazing. It’s full of dust and the quality is… well… it’s better than you might see in a larger box set where Devil Bat might be crammed onto a four movie DVD set on one disc, compressed to death and resembling VHS more than the film it was shot on. So it’s tolerable in that it isn’t as bad as you’ve seen it before, and as you might expect, low on special features.

I think you pick up Devil Bat because you want to scare the kids or relive memories of watching it on the Late Late Shock show du jour from your childhood. Set your expectation to “reasonable” and check it out. This met my expectation for quality and exceeded the look of the previous releases I had seen when I was younger.

Devil Bat is available through Kino Lorber.


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