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Thursday, January 25, 2018

When It Flies --- Someone Dies


Where Bela Lugosi Gives Shaving Lotion A Bad Name

Thank you, Bob Furmanek, for making your gorgeous 35mm print available to Kino for this Blu-ray transfer. What rapture comes of an intact PRC logo! It's time we recognize how lowest budget could be redeemed just by casting Bela --- he and Erich von Stroheim may have been alone at rescue of hopeless enterprise. Even Karloff was no match for Lugosi where it came to salvage work like this. I think it was BL's total commitment that made the difference; so far as he was concerned, a week on Devil Bat was as time spent doing Ninotchka with Garbo. Devil Bat was just a shorter drive from home. I admire Lugosi not playing down even to debasing material. Not that Devil Bat is that. He's on camera lots, which is as much as we could ask of any Lugosi starrer, frustration with later stuff deriving from fact he's not there enough, or heaven forbid, he doesn't speak, as with The Black Sleep. How necessary was Devil Bat being made cheap? Observe the ad at left, a New Orleans first-run, with seats selling for literal nickels and dimes. Bela's Devil Bat home is one I'd covet, all sliding panels and bubbling beakers in his mad lab. What a rig like that could do for my basement, with maybe killer bats to ward off peddlers and solicitors. When prospective victims say Good Night, BL replies Goodbye to meaningful effect, a deathless refrain throughout Devil Bat. Question is who'll be doused with shaving lotion that draws DB to vulnerable throats, a device increasingly merry as 68 minutes roll and it gets apparent that Bela will be a final victim of his own machinations. Creations had consistent way of turning on creators in cheapies. Lead lady Suzanne Kaaren later retired to crumbling edifice of husband Sidney Blackmer's family mansion in Salisbury, NC, where we went to visit in 1980, myself armed with Devil Bat stills and lobby cards. She remembered the show fondly and spoke well of Lugosi. At that time, Devil Bat was PD-copied to miserable effect for what TV runs there were; great to access it finally on Blu-Ray.

10 Comments:

Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

"It's time we recognize how lowest budget could be redeemed just by casting Bela..."

I could (and will) argue that BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA is an exception.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

My wife and I love THE DEVIL BAT. Writer John Neville collaborated with W. C. Fields on NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK, and the Lugosi picture has the same kind of lunatic charm. And Mr. Lugosi dutifully plays it as written: the dedicated research chemist who has been swindled out of a fortune, and takes drastic steps to redress the balance.

Bela Lugosi would be featured by the major studios, but at the independent lots he was the star, and he never disappoints.

5:29 PM  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

I always enjoy watching "Devil Bat" in all its charmingly unhinged glory. For one thing, I love seeing the endlessly affable Dave O'Brien in a leading role. And could there every be an unlikelier "Dr. Paul Carruthers" than Lugosi? It's a Scottish name, I believe. Imagine if he'd taken a stab at a brogue.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Yes. DEVIL BAT is gorgeous in this Blu-ray. Bob Furmanek continues to give us much to be grateful for. Last night I watched for the first time Columbia's NIGHT OF TERROR with top billed Bela as a red herring. Quality not anywhere near print wise DEVIL BAT (nor, for that matter, was the plot) but it's great to see Bela in something I had not seen. On order and waiting to arrive is Tod Browning's THE THIRTEENTH CHAIR. What is great is that as stars whose names were bigger in his day are now being outshone by Bela. As Forry Ackerman said, "Lugosi is eternal." Yes, he is.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

http://www.mikeclinesthenplaying.com/p/sidney-and-suzanne-kaaren-blackmer.html

8:10 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Yeah, Reg! NIGHT OF TERROR was one of the very first SHOCK and/or SON OF SHOCK items I saw as a kid. 12 year old me was delighted. Didn't revisit until just a month or two ago. Still love it!

10:21 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Most of us know that Bela went bankrupt early and made choices purely to bring in money. Generally when a person goes bankrupt it is because they were spending on themselves. Bela went bankrupt because he was spending to help others. Far from being a monster or a villain Bela was one of the really good guys. Ditto Karloff.

6:19 AM  
Blogger rnigma said...

@Mike: loved the articles on Sidney Blackmer and Suzanne Kaaren (I lived in Salisbury for a while, by the way). No mention of "Wilson," where Sidney played fellow Tar Heel Josephus Daniels.

9:19 PM  
Blogger John Field said...

Bob Furmanek admitted that there was NO restoration done on Devil Bat. Blu-Ray only makes the blemishes stand out more. If there was no restoration done, don't advertise it as such.

6:06 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Was the Blu-ray advertised as a restoration? I hadn't noticed.

6:57 PM  

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