By 1940 Bela Lugosi’s career was in a down swing. Lugosi was getting less and less leading roles from Universal Studios. Universal’s initial horror craze slowed down in 1936 but after a revival of Dracula and Frankenstein in theatres they started making more in 1939. Lugosi had a few roles but he started looking for work elsewhere. Up and coming poverty row studio Producers Releasing Corporation cast Lugosi in one of their earliest hits, the 1940 film The Devil Bat.
Lugosi stars as cosmetic chemist Dr. Paul Carruthers. Lugosi is ticked at the company he works for. He came up with a formula that made the company and its founders rich but at the time Lugosi took a simple pay out. Since then everyone has gotten rich but him as he continues to come up with new formulas, supporting the entire business. But Lugosi has a plan for revenge.
Lugosi has come up with a new aftershave lotion that he gives to one of the owners of the cosmetics company. Lugosi has also experimented with genetics and has created a giant bat, a devil bat if you will, that’s attracted to the lotion. Thus Lugosi begins killing off his enemies with an aftershave lotion and a killer bat. A nosy reporter and his photographer come to town to investigate the murders.
The movie is goofy and the bat effects are bad but the movie has a charm about it. Lugosi is good as the mad doctor out for revenge against his greedy employers. The film spawned a name only sequel in 1946 along with a rehash/remake from director Sam Newfield called The Flying Serpent which substituted the giant bats with Quetzalcoatl aka Q the winged serpent. Because the film fell into public domain there has been a ton of poor quality copies of it out on DVD and the internet. The movie was restored a couple of years ago and Kino recently released a fantastic looking Blu-ray earlier this year.