Dr.Carruthers feels bitter at being betrayed by his employers, Heath and Morton, when they became rich as a result of a product he devised. He gains revenge by electrically enlarging bats and sending them out to kill his employers' family members by instilling in the bats a hatred for a particular perfume he has discovered, which he gets his victims to apply before going outdoors. Johnny Layton, a reporter, finally figures out Carruthers is the killer and, after putting the perfume on himself, douses it on Carruthers in the hopes it will get him to give himself away. One of the two is attacked as the giant bat makes one of its screaming, swooping power dives.
Directed by: Jean Yarbrough
. Starring: Bela Lugosi
, Suzanne Kaaren
, Dave O'Brien
, Guy Usher
, Yolande Donlan
, Donald Kerr
, Edmund Mortimer
, Gene O'Donnell
, Alan Baldwin
, John Ellis
, Arthur Q. Bryan
, Hal Price
, John Davidson
THE DEVIL BAT (PRC Studios, 1941), directed by Jean Yarborough, from an original story by George Bricker, copes with a mad scientist who breeds gigantic bats to avenge those who had wronged him. While such a role might have gone to Boris Karloff, Lionel Atwill or some lesser known actor, it was appropriately awarded to none other than Bela Lugosi, best known for his immortal role as "Dracula" (Universal, 1931). Appearing a little older than he did a decade ago, Lugosi could always be counted on to give a first-rate performance on something he's done many times over and would repeat again for the duration of his career. With more good than bad in Lugosi's movie archive, let's consider THE DEVIL BAT a minor classic of its own.
Following the forward introduction that reads, "All of Heathville loves Paul Carruthers, their kindly village doctor. No one suspects that in his home laboratory on a hillside overlooking the magnificent estate of Martin Heath, the doctor found time to conduct certain private experiments... weird, terrifying experiments." The story gets underway with Paul Carruthers (Bela Lugosi), a respected and well-like physician who makes his living developing new cosmetic formulas. Because Henry Morton (Guy Usher), a cosmetics manufacturer, and others have gotten rich on his formula, being the founder of Heath Cosmetics Limited, Carruthers plots his vengeance. With his latest invention of a new shaving lotion with a very strong scent, Carruthers offers it to his intended victims where they place it around their necks. After Carruthers bids them "GOOD-bye" in a final farewell tone, he then sets free through an open window the huge bat he keeps in his laboratory to fly out and make its attack. Even after being awarded a $5,000 bonus check, Carruthers continues to carry out his fiendish plot. Joe McGinty (Arthur Q. Bryan), editor of the Daily Register, assigns reporter Johnny Layton (Dave O'Brien) and photographer, "One-Shot" McGuire (Donald Kerr) to investigate. After the bat is killed and case solved, a series of "devil bat" murders continues to occur.
In spite of Lugosi's name heading the cast, THE DEVIL BAT tends to spend more time with lighter touches of comedy provided by the ace reporters, Layton and McGuire, who, at one point, acquire a rubber bat to further prove their case to the editor, and having McGuire taking its picture for the newspaper. They soon become laughing stocks when Professor Percival Garland Raines (John Davidson), an authority on bats, after further examining the photograph, in his radio broadcast, exposes the bat as a fraud by revealing the "Made in Japan" label on it. There's no question that a giant rubber bat was used for this production, especially one made in Japan, though the extreme close-up of the shrieking bat was possibly lifted from some national geographic newsreel. Further antics go towards McGuire (Donald Kerr) with his attempt to attract attention on Maxine (Yolande Mallott), a French maid of the Heath household. As for Dave O'Brien, in a straight-laced performance, who spent much of his career working for poverty row studios as Monogram and PRC, is better known these days as the subject matter in the "Pete Smith Specialty" short subjects for MGM during much of the 1940s. Suzanne Kaaren, one of the true lesser known names of the period, assumes the role as Johnny's (O'Brien) love interest as well as sister of one of the bat victims.
Not bad little thriller that's easily predictable from start to finish, but still fun to watch, thanks to Lugosi's half-crazed performance. For the record, THE DEVIL BAT was remade by PRC Studios as THE FLYING SERPENT (1946) starring George Zucco in the Lugosi role. Also in 1946, PRC released a sequel in name only titled THE DEVIL BAT'S DAUGHTER with Rosemary LaPlanche. A misnomer considering there's no indication of Doctor Carruthers in the original film having an offspring of any kind, unless one counts those bats he has hidden in his laboratory as his very own children of the night.
When THE DEVIL BAT made its way to home video in the early 1980s, the print supplied by various distributors turned out to be the reissue copy retitled KILLER BATS. While most VHS copies were of poor quality either in visuals or sound, the best edition turned out to be from Hal Roach Home Video with the original theatrical title retained. Frequently revived on local public broadcast stations during the after midnight hours, sometimes as KILLER BATS, Turner Classic Movies occasionally airs THE DEVIL BAT (TCM premiere: June 16, 1995) as part of its annual theme for Halloween.
Review by lugonian from the Internet Movie Database.