Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Bat People – review

dvdDirected by: Jerry Jameson

First released: 1974

Contains spoilers

Ever since Bram Stoker added the concept into Dracula the bat and the vampire have been inextricably linked. There are a few bat related films out there and, mostly, I do not look at them here as rabid runaway (natural) vampire bats are unlikely to be of the vampire genre.

In this case we have something a little different. It is a little bit lycanthropic, a little bit Jekyll and Hyde but also a whole lot of vampire. The film itself isn’t too good but it is unusual.

Marianne McAndrew as CathyDr John Beck (Stewart Moss) is having a nightmare. It involves bats and an eye and a woman bleeding. One would have thought that to have this nightmare might indicate some precognitive ability on John’s part – I’ll return to this. We see John and his wife Cathy (Marianne McAndrew) driving through the desert, they stop for a picnic. John hears something Cathy can’t and then a bat lands on the picnic blanket and she freaks – he sometimes forgets that most people hate bats. She doesn’t want to go the caves – but it is to do with his job, after that they’ll go on to their late honeymoon skiing vacation.

John, post attackThey get to the cave and I wonder what his job is? He likes bats, he is studying a cave and yet later we hear he is researching preventative medicine. The film doesn’t tell us. Cathy is feeling a little bit saucy and runs off, away from the tour, to get a little down and dirty in the subterranean setting. She falls down a crevasse. John goes down after her and hears the sound again, suddenly a bat flies at Cathy. He pulls it off her and it bites him, though he manages to kill it and throw it to the floor. Before they are rescued Cathy kicks it down deeper into the depths, a shame as John as going to have the carcass checked for rabies.

reactionsThey get to the ski resort but John starts having funny turns. His eyes roll up into his head and at one point he crushes a glass. It appears, for all the world, like a fit – though Cathy describes his turns as anger, later. She makes him go to the local Doctor, Kipling (Paul Carr), and then pushes John to have rabies treatment – though he points out that the treatment can wait (up to a month). He reacts violently to the serum and is kept in hospital.

metamorphosisThat night he fits again and sees his hand change. He also sees a girl attacked by something, but that attack is in a dream. Now, remember me mentioning the precognitive aspect? He will attack someone tonight – but not that girl. Indeed it is the following night when he does attack her and it is scene for scene the same. If, however, the filmmakers were purposefully putting a precognitive aspect into the film they certainly failed to explore it.

the nurse victimHe leaves his room and attacks a nurse – her throat is cut but it appears that she fell and cut it on broken glass beneath her fall. He awakens in bed and finds that his wedding ring is by the bed (it is a tight fit and shouldn’t have come off). Cathy appears and says she has booked a motel for them but he wants to stay in hospital and get a psychiatrist. His mood shifts and he relents, going to the motel. However, local cop Sergeant Ward (Michael Pataki, from Grave of the Vampire and Zoltan, Hound of Dracula) becomes more and more suspicious of him.

drinking bloodAs the story runs, he becomes more and more paranoid. Cathy thinks it is the drugs used for his treatment affecting him. Sgt Ward is on his trail but is also unpleasant and tries to force himself on Cathy (why is beyond me as it had no story impact, made the character unlikeable and seemed gratuitous). To a degree all this might be in John’s head, it could all be homicidal delusion – however certain facts start coming out, like his desire to drink blood – illustrated when he steals a blood bag.

a flash of fangsWe get a flash of fang and, as the film rushes towards its conclusion we also discover that the transformations are physical and that others can see him in his altered state. Clearly he has been infected by something – though it is not rabies, his reaction to the rabies serum indicates that the writer had an idea it might be related, but the concept is not explored.

a changed manSo he transforms into bat form, but without wings. He is more comfortable in his new shape. He drinks blood. He is a vampire, though not of the standard undead variety, and the story reminded me (very much in passing) of the book Desmodus by Melanie Tem – though they were a different species of creature to humans. However, the story is patchy, the characters unreal and not sympathetic. The actual film is slow and it isn’t very good – just rather unusual. 2.5 out of 10. The imdb page is here.


Zahir Blue said...

Actually, I kinda liked this one -- but then, maybe it was the exotic nature of the "vampire" plus the fact that his wife ends up joining him. That touches on the romantic in me. Heh heh.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Zahir, I did like the unusual nature of the vampirism - and as for his wife, all I can say is, well you old romantic you ;)

It could have been really quite interesting but I felt they didn't draw it together well at all. I can understand why you'd appreciate it though