On Halloween, 2017, CinemaSlice‘s Michael Welborn released a short film clip paying homage to the 1940 film The Devil Bat (starring Bela Lugosi) – also called The Devil Bat. I asked an old college friend (an avid film fan, and a classmate in Andrew Jefchak‘s Literature and Motion Pictures class at Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, Michigan) for his input on the film before I wrote this.
Talking with Welborn, he mentioned that his intention was to cover what he felt was the main scene(s) in the original film – explaining the short length (a little over three minutes) of this project. He also had some ideas he’d like to try for an expanded homage – though to my knowledge those are still in the concept stage.
This clip stars David Waldman (in the Lugosi role as Dr. Paul Carruthers) and Dr. Ray Clark (as Martin Heath – though the character in the original film was his son, Roy Heath). It’s presented in black and white – Welborn’s favored medium, and also capturing the retro feel for the original film. The soundtrack music was provided by AVZTN. Nic White served as the Associate Producer. Welborn wrote, directed, shot and edited the film.
The film has a cold open, with Carruthers talking with Heath. After some exposition they part ways amiably (note: in the original film, the doctor is presented a bonus check, but in this clip it appears that he’s being given severance pay), but as they turn away we see a look of disdain on Carruthers’ face. A voice-over narration describes how the doctor, widely respected, is conducting experiments (“…weird, terrifying experiments…”). During this narration, we see the doctor soaking cotton balls in some liquid, then talking to an unseen entity (vaguely hinted at with a brief glimpse of a wing). This is followed with the entity (yes, the Devil Bat) being released to do Dr. Carruthers’ bidding.
I like the way Waldman seemed to channel Lugosi’s performance vocally (essentially doing a Lugosi/Dracula impersonation). His appearance also fits the distinguished, yet malevolent character. Dr. Clark’s performance maintained an upbeat characterization fitting the role.
I love the last scene immensely – in fact everyone I’ve talked with seemed impressed with it (I’m referring to the shot of the full moon, and the follow-up).
I like the background music. It almost sounds like something from a 1940’s film.
Overall I enjoyed this. Still (unlike some of my other reviews, where I’ve complained about excessive length) I really would want to see more of this. I think there could be enough material to have a nice 15 minute condensed version of the original. Alternatively, this could also make for a short serial, with five to 6 episodes, and appropriate cliffhangers (not the girl tied to the tracks type, but the hanging suspense variety).
One point which seemed to bother my friend was how the camera lingered during the cotton ball scene. I myself think that the scene captures the 1940 style.
Wrapping up, I’d say this is a toss-up between a four and a five reel rating. In fact, I’m going to have to call it 4 1/2 reels. Four reels due to the shortness and quick ending. Five due to the atmosphere captured, and the fine acting by Waldman.