Sunday, October 05, 2008

Devil Bat’s Daughter – review


Directed by: Frank Wisbar

Release date: 1946

Contains spoilers

This is, allegedly, a sequel to the 1940 flick The Devil Bat. Now The Devil Bat might have been a, so called, poverty row flick and it might have been preposterous in its story, but it did star Bela Lugosi and it was great fun, managing to achieve both atmosphere and tension despite itself.

I have that first film on a DVD called Great Bloodsucking Vampire Movies an inclusion that has always perplexed me. You see the DVD also has the classic the Last Man on Earth and the perhaps not so classic Satanic Rites of Dracula but the Devil Bat is not a vampire movie. In it Lugosi plays Dr Paul Carruthers, a mad scientist who creates giant bats and trains them to attack a certain pheromone, which he then adds to cologne that he gives to his enemies.

Bats, yes, Lugosi, yes, but vampires… not at all. It is strange then, on the surface at least, that Devil Bat’s Daughter should be classed as a vampire flick. But then, as we shall see, it is perhaps stranger that it is classed as a sequel at all. You see, this is one of those ‘vampire flick without a vampire’ movies and it is all about someone believing (or being made to believe) they are a vampire. This is no great spoiler as the film single handily fails to create any form of atmosphere, tension or sense of mystery.

Nina in a hysterical stupourThe film begins with the examination of Nina McCarron (Rosemary La Planche) by town doctor, Dr Elliott (Nolan Leary). She stares, eyes open but unresponsive – he tells the sheriff (Ed Cassidy) that she is unconscious. She was found by a farmer, who is less than helpful in identifying her, but a cabbie tells them that he took her out to the old Carruthers’ house.

oddly placed newspaperThey go to the house and (as well as seeing a paper stating Carruthers was a murderer called the Devil Bat – strange as the film then tells us that they did not conclude this until his bats attacked and killed him, so why would the paper be in his house) find her grip – her passport reveals her name, she is from Scotland (the part of the country that has no Scottish accent, obviously) and McCarron was her mother’s maiden name. Her father was Carruthers.

Things to note at this point. The location of the film has moved from Heathville, Illinois, to Wardsley, New York. Carruthers’ old place used to look castle like with secret rooms. This looks like an old basement. Carruthers was said to be Romanian – interesting as although Lugosi was Hungarian, his home town is now, due to border movements, in Romania I understand – who moved to Scotland, fathered Nina and then left four years later when the locals accused him of being a vampire, due to his work with bats. It is also noted that it is assumed that Carruthers set the bats on his enemy – in the first film they had conclusive proof.

Dr Morris and Dr ElliottElliott contacts psychiatrist Dr Clifton Morris (Michael Hale) who manages to break her out of her hysterical stupor. She is sleeping at night when she awakens from a nightmare of a bat at her window. The bat may or may not have suffered from crap bat syndrome – everything is too blurred to tell. I was less than impressed with the dream sequences, preferring the way they were done in Daughter of Dr Jekyll. She goes rushing to Morris’ home and is found by his wife Ellen (Molly Lamont). Unfortunately Morris is in New York – actually with his lover Myra (Monica Mars) – but Ellen phones him and says that she will let Nina stay.

Ted and Nina, destined for loveIt is clear that Morris is not happy with his relationship with Ellen. We discover later that he was with Myra (who is a friend of Ellen’s) but left her, marrying Ellen for her money. Myra wants him to divorce her friend, but he won’t. Ellen’s son, from a previous marriage, Ted (John James) is in the army, but when he is discharged we discover he dislikes Morris – a lot. Clearly Morris is going to manipulate Nina into believing her father was a vampire to get at Ellen. Also, quite clearly, Ted and Nina are going to fall in love.

an excuse to look down the blouse of Rosemary La PlancheThe vampire rules we hear are that vampires are the dead who are alive (not the best description) who must drink blood to maintain life and are destroyed via the old stake through the heart. We also hear that they can possess the living. Morris manipulates Nina so that she believes she is possessed by her father’s vampiric spirit and things look bad when she awakens, holding bloody scissors with Ted’s dog dead. Now earlier the film had her playing with the dog, on the surface to let us know she loved the mutt but, actually, to have an excuse to have a down blouse cleavage shot of the former (1941) Miss America.

waking up with scissors - a sign of guiltNina is to be moved to a sanatorium but awakens the next day at the bottom of the stairs, scissors in hand and Ellen murdered. Morris is quick to blame inherited “criminal tendencies”. As a trial looms and the papers accuse her of being a vampire murderess, Ted decides to prove his love innocent. This involves finding Carruthers’ papers (which Morris has stolen) that prove he was not a murderer. If Morris had shown Nina this she wouldn’t have been convinced that her father was a vampire and, of course, there can be no inherited criminal tendencies. This, of course, is completely out with the first film as Carruthers was a murderer in that.

newspaper speculationThe main proof, however, comes from the drugs Morris was feeding Nina – which means the entire plot regarding her father being innocent was irrelevant and just served to further undermine the previous film. The performances and script were mediocre and conspired to make this an obvious and insipid experience. The characters are so stereotyped, from the get go, that they may as well have called Morris by the name Mr Bastard the murderer* and renamed Ted as Mr Gormless the puerile hero.

Monica Mars as MyraNot a great film and worse as it undermines the previous film, which might have been a poverty row B, but had a thick layer of class. 2 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

*gag stolen!


Mina Jade said...

I would not be that strict... it is also true that horror is my love and I'm lenient of any production made of this genre, as the poorest horror film (or book) can grab my attention. True that I can recognise a classic, in books's case.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Mina, thanks for the comment. I can be a little strict but then I feel the need to distinguish between the best the vampire genre has to offer (eg Isle of the Dead) and the worst (debatable but currently settled on Geek Maggot Bingo).

I may have given this 2 out of 10, and it is a poor film that rips apart the original film it is based on but... I also sat and watched it and will undoubtedly do so again.