Sunday, November 23, 2008

Notes on Devil Bat's Daughter (1946)

Nina: "Bats! Bats!"
Dr. Morris: "It's not a bat, Nina. It's a bird."
Nina: "My father!"

I must remind myself that Devil Bat's Daughter actually exists. Others have seen this sequel to The Devil Bat (William K. Everson briefly discusses it in his essay on Strangler of the Swamp in his seminal Classics of the Horror Film), a few, I'm sure, have appreciated it. I keep coming back to it, just to reaffirm that it is not a fevered dream. The title, though reminiscent of many other horror movie sequels, just doesn't roll off the tongue like Bride of Frankenstein or Dracula's Daughter, nor does it initially make sense. This movie is not about the spawn of a evil flying mammal, as might be expected. Instead, it is about the daughter of a mad scientist whose experiments in cell growth stimulation on bats got the best of him (Bela Lugosi, entirely absent from the sequel, earned the nickname The Devil Bat in the interim between these two films). Familiarity with the more typical earlier film is not required. Devil Bat's Daughter is the film one might dream about while nodding off to a late night viewing of The Devil Bat.

Nina MacCarron is alone in the world. She is taken to the police in a catatonic state after learning of her father's death. Overcome with visions of giant bats, she is given to Dr. Morris, a New York psychiatrist out of place in the small town of Wardsley. Dr. Morris sees Nina as the perfect fall girl for the murder of his wife. Awakened from a drug-induced slumber, Nina finds herself at the bottom of the stairs, a bloody pair of scissors next to her.

And a dead body. This brief shot I find particularly disturbing, the indignity of a completely sympathetic character (Morris' sickly wife) in what looks like a crime scene photo.

Nina's fragile mind is shattered.

This movie has gotten under my skin, its myriad scenes of people sleeping, dreaming, and awaking in the typical B-movie tempo is almost trance-inducing.

Nina has to be one of the most inert heroines of all-time. She is in bed in nearly every scene.

Not quite horror, not quite thriller, certainly not just a sequel, Devil Bat's Daughter is a PRC oddity like no other.

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