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  Bat People, The Deh-Ner-Deh-Ner-Deh-Ner-Deh-Ner- No, Wait A Minute
Year: 1974
Director: Jerry Jameson
Stars: Stewart Moss, Marianne McAndrew, Michael Pataki, Paul Carr, Arthur Space, Robert Berk, Pat Delaney, George Paulsin, Bonnie Van Dyke, Jennifer Kulik, Laurie Brooks Jefferson
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Doctor John Beck (Stewart Moss) is a specialist in bats, but has been suffering strange nightmares about his chosen field lately. His wife Cathy (Marianne McAndrew) is concerned, but reassures him their trip to Colorado will give him the opportunity to relax as he fits in some research too, out in the desert where the animals make their home. However, once out there and after a picnic, Cathy is disgusted to see one of the bats crawling around their blanket and makes Beck shoo it away, so they both decide they would now prefer to be skiing instead. But a visit to one of the nearby caves proves unfortunate when another of the flying rodents attacks the couple, with surprising effect.

This should really have been called The Bat Person, for there was but one character afflicted with the condition brought about by that bite (although the late on twist, if you could call it that, suggests though does not confirm there may be two by the point "THE END" appears), but then they could not have called it Bat Man because all sorts of misconceptions would have arisen. That said, around the same time in the actual Batman comics, there was the Man-Bat villain, one of the revivals of horror characters that happened in the nineteen-seventies once the censorship code was eased; Man-Bat had shown up in 1970, mind you, so perhaps screenwriter Lou Shaw was influenced.

More likely was that he had grown up with fifties sci-fi where science was warped into creating monsters, or even earlier, when Lon Chaney Jr was bitten by a wolf and became the Wolf Man, for there was a definite lycanthropy element to Dr Beck's fate. This far down the line, its most celebrated aspect would be the makeup by Stan Winston, the genius of many an eighties and nineties science fiction or horror blockbuster, here seeing his first screen achievement, though many would observe the only way was up after this. The trouble there was that The Bat People had garnered a reputation as one of the worst of its decade thanks to an appearance on a certain TV show.

You know the one, where they would run a creaky movie and take the mickey out of it for ninety minutes, either a blessing for keeping many past it entertainments alive in the consciousness, or a curse for rendering everything from that era in the genre style considered as worthless and merely deserving of derision. In truth, this example was, granted, not the best of its kind, but it did feature quirks that many bigger budget efforts would not have considered including which lent it some interest: was this the first horror movie to feature premature ejaculation, for instance? Not that this would make it one for the ages, but it hinted there was a sensibility at work that was willing to take a chance that the larger studios' output - this was an American International production - would never have bothered with.

Back at the plot, poor old Beck kept having seizures, where his eyes would roll back in his head seemingly because that was a talent Stewart had, but then it gets worse and during these spells he starts to murder people, a nurse, one half of a courting couple, a tramp (who claims prior to his execution to be "Free as a shit"), and so on. All the while professionals insist to Beck that this is simply an allergic reaction to the anti-rabies injections, and his wife endorses that (Stewart and McAndrew were married in real life too), despite all appearances to the contrary, as the mayhem, including the regulation car chase, escalates - Michael Pataki's dodgy Sheriff remains sceptical, on the other hand. What was interesting was that the now insane doctor came to accept his new form, in a way reminiscent of the contemporary Phase IV, and its revenge of nature theme so common to this decade's shockers was developed into the lesser seen "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em". Music (topped and tailed with a plaintive ballad) by Artie Kane.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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