In the village of Heathville, Dr Paul Carruthers (Bela Lugosi) is experimenting with bats in his secret laboratory. Although well liked around the town, Carruthers is harbouring a massive grudge against the Heath cosmetics company which has had the benefit of his expertise, yet, in the doctor's eyes, have not paid him enough back. To get his revenge, he has utilised electricity to grow bats to a larger size, and has invented a special shaving lotion that they are attracted to. All he needs to do is persuade the members of the Morton and Heath families, who own the company, to try out his lotion and then set the giant bat on them...
Bela Lugosi was a long way from starring in Dracula when he made this chiller for P.R.C., a studio even cheaper than Monogram. Written by John T. Neville from George Bricker's story, The Devil Bat is a cheerfully ridiculous horror with a blasé attitude to having a plot that makes sense, but that's part of the charm, and it's too short to be boring. Carruthers is invited over to the Heath house the night he grows his killer bat, ostensibly to celebrate the engagement of young Mary Heath (Suzanne Kaaren), but actually to hand over a cheque to him for $5000 by way of thanks for all his efforts. This makes Carruthers look pretty petty, as we hear in his voiceover, he's not satisfied with that, and goes ahead with his murderous plan regardless.
Once the first two victims are disptatched, the newspaper sends over one of its reporters, Johnny Layton (Dave O'Brien), who doesn't sing "Johnny Remember Me", but is accompanied by photographer One Shot McGuire (Donald Kerr), and they naturally are better at figuring out the mystery before the local police do. But initially, Johnny and One Shot are as baffled as everyone else, and we're treated to an exposé of the duplicitous methods of the press, when they fake a photo using a stuffed bat to illustrate their story. The editor sacks them when this comes to light, and the two men have to solve the crime to get their jobs back.
The special effects, needless to say, are none too special, and the Devil Bat doesn't look any different, or any more convincing, than the stuffed impostor. Closeups of a real bat are used for that mark of authenticity, but to no avail. As for Bela, he's like a supporting player in his own movie, because O'Brien takes the limelight, mostly due to us knowing from the opening five minutes what Carruthers is up to, so we don't need much more exposition than that.
The action becomes repetitive, just one damn murder after another, but there are comedy interludes from the reporter and the photographer, as Johnny woos Mary and One Shot wins over her French maid (and looks as though he'll be taking saucy pictures of her, too). There are frequent montages of newspaper headlines to keep us certain of the plot details, complete with the shadow of a bat cast across them. One thing I do like is that Lugosi gets a catchphrase: "Goodbye!" which he says to his victims when they wish him goodnight. It all ends with Carruthers hoist with his own petard, and you should be entertained by the breezy atmosphere and general craziness.