THE DEVIL BATMOVIE REVIEW
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(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
The folks of Heathville all love kindly Doctor Paul Carruthers. No one suspects that in his home on a hillside, overlooking the magnificent estate of Martin Heath, the doctor conducts certain private experiments - Weird, Terrifying experiments.
At least that's what the opening Foreword tells me and writer John Thomas Neville (THE LAST OF THE LONE WOLF, EYES OF MYSTERY, MIDNIGHT PHANTOM, THE FLYING SERPENT) wants me to believe.
He visits a secret room with a bunch of bats in it. He calls them his friends and explains what he is doing to them: making them giants.
I'm not talking Godzilla giant, that would be preposterous. They are all about twice the size of an average bat: Which is pretty impressive. If someone made me twice my size, I'd be pretty impressed! I'd also stomp through downtown Los Angeles until arrested.
Word to the wise, that's all I'm saying.
Dr. Carruthers makes bats grow with very noisy electrical accoutrements like a roomful of Jacob ladders, and other Kenny Strickfaden-style toys (I've searched the Net, but cannot find if the machines are in fact, genuine Kenneth Strickfaden* designs like we saw in the Boris Karloff version of Frankenstein).
Anyway, making giant bats seems to please Dr. Carruthers and everybody needs a hobby, but what is the point of his work anyway?
Apparently he wants his giant bats, which look remarkably like average sized fox bats (the largest of the bat family), to attack anyone who wears a certain fragrance of shaving lotion. Do you wear Old Spice Swagger? You do? Then you're safe.
We soon discover that kindly Dr. Carruthers is harboring one hell of a vicious grudge. He has convinced himself that the wealthy Heath family of Heathville have made their riches at his expense.
No amount of bonus money - and he gets plenty - will change his mind. He also won't listen to the truth: that he was offered equal partnership when the company formed. But the young Dr. Carruthers didn't have enough faith in his own talents. So he took the fast buck and let the foolish risk-taking Heaths and Mortons swing in the wind.
Ha! Stupid saps!
Only his inventions were a success and the Heath and Morton families' risk paid off and grew into a fortune. So they got rich, hired lots of workers, and Dr. Carruthers was left with a hefty regular paycheck, frequent hefty bonuses, and a manufactured belief that everyone was responsible for his bad choices but him.
Kindly Dr. Carruthers has murder on his mind and a roomful of giant bats. He's going to start with the Heath children.
One dead Roy Heath (John Ellis) later, and ace reporter, Johnny Layton (Dave O'Brien: TELL YOUR CHILDREN [REEFER MADNESS], SPOOKS RUN WILD, MURDER BY INVITATION, CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT, THE PHANTOM OF 42ND STREET) from Chicago, is on the case!
Along with his idiot photographer, One-Shot Macguire (Donald Kerr: THE MURDER IN THE MUSEUM, THE APE, THE MONSTER AND THE GIRL, CAT PEOPLE , THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY, THE MAGNETIC MONSTER), who is supposed to be the comedy relief, provides neither comedy or relief, Johnny questions Police Chief Wilkins (Hal Price: MYSTERIOUS DOCTOR SATAN), who is amazingly helpful. He questions Mary Heath (Suzanne Kaaren**), who is not as stricken by her brother's recent death as one would think.
He questions Dr. Carruthers, who smugly toys with him, practically giving himself away.
Under Director Jean Yarborough (KING OF THE ZOMBIES, HOUSE OF HORRORS, SHE-WOLF OF LONDON, THE BRUTE MAN, THE CREEPER, NIGHT FREIGHT, THE ADDAMS FAMILY [TV - 1964], HILLBILLIES IN A HAUNTED HOUSE), Lugosi plays Carruthers as an emotionally stunted man-child with great scientific genius. Carruthers is so desperate for attention that he can barely keep from bragging to everyone of his new invention, giant bats, and how he is using them to kill whoever crosses him.
Despite needing so much attention and flattery, Carruthers thinks nothing of the trust the Heath and Morton children have for him. They were born and grew up around him and he is respected and adored like a beloved Uncle.
All of that, as well as their lives, doesn't phase him. Filled with the regret of not being enriched and renown for his inventions when he had the chance, Carruthers has fabricated the false narrative of his life where he was somehow suckered into not signing as an equal partner.
So Dr. Carruthers is going down the line of the Heath children. He invites Tommy Heath (Alan Baldwin) over to try out his new experimental cologne. Tommy is at ease in the presence of the old family friend, Dr. Carruthers, and tries it. Tommy seems pretty friendly and not at all torn up over his brother's death.
Tommy: Well, so long, Dr. Carruthers!
One dead Tommy later, the final child, adult daughter Mary, narrowly escapes death when she notices that her perfume smells funny and doesn't use it.
Carruthers sets his sights on the Morton family, giving them a gift of his experimental aftershave.
Soon there's a dead Don Morton (Gene O'Donnell: THE APE, THE MAD GHOUL) and Johnny finally makes a connection between the dead men and an experimental after shave. Why he doesn't immediately make the connection between Don's experimental after shave and Dr. Carruthers' experimental after shave is anybody's guess.
At turns both 68 minutes and supposedly frightening, THE DEVIL BAT is unintentionally funny. The "Shriek" of the Devil Bat, which was meant to frighten audiences, today sounds whacked out and hilarious: as if the bat itself is screaming in unexpected fright. I enjoyed THE DEVIL BAT, but probably not in the spirit Director Jean Yarborough and Writer John Thomas Neville, intended.
3 Negative Shriek Girls.
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