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Home | Film Reviews | Bad Movies | Film Review: The Bat People (1974)

Film Review: The Bat People (1974)

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SYNOPSIS:

After being bitten by a bat in a cave, a doctor undergoes an accelerating transformation into a man-bat, which ruins his vacation and causes considerable distress for his wife.

REVIEW:

I have a confession to make. When I sat down to watch this flick, I was not in the best frame of mind. I was in a fair amount of pain after having been bitten by a pit bull. I was hoping that this movie, which I expected to be terrible, would at least distract me from my predicament. I was hoping for something with the right amount of ineptitude to be unintentionally hilarious or manages to be bad in a way that it makes it strangely interesting. Instead, it was a dull, plodding, affair that only seemed to intensify my torment, and I think it could only bring suffering to anyone who chooses to sit through it.

The Bat People centers Dr. John Beck and his wife, Cathy. They both were recently married and were on their honeymoon at a ski resort. While spelunking, Beck is bitten by a vampire bat. After needling from his wife, he finally agrees to see the resort’s doctor. The doctor’s ambivalence to the whole thing and lack of concern only frustrates Cathy, who apparently doesn’t appreciate being witness to an obvious case of malpractice. Both men share that wonderfully sexist attitude of treating Cathy like she’s just another over-emotional and hysterical women before they finally relent. While at the hospital, John starts to undergo a physical transformation that turns him into a man-bat (but not nearly as cool or interesting as the Batman villain, Man-Bat) that goes on a killing-spree to quench his new thirst for human blood. Cathy soon finds herself believing her husband might be losing his mind, and while she’s trying to help the love of her life she also has to contend with Sgt. Ward, a corrupt policeman.

Now, while I was in a foul mood and a little bored with the film, I will say that the movie did do a few interesting things. The main character is a person who undergoes an inexplicable transformation, driven to commit murder by urges that he can’t control. He’s a monster, but it’s not really his fault. On the other hand, the cop investigating the deaths left in Beck’s wake is a truly reprehensible person. Ward is a cruel bully that appears to delight in intimidating people with the power he believes his badge gives him, and he also seems to think he can get away with anything he wants. In one scene actually tries to rape Beck’s wife. Beck is a victim of circumstances while Ward makes everyone around him a victim. While asking the audience which of the characters is the true monster isn’t original, The Bat People still manages to do a decent job of it.

There were a few other positives as well. The cast gave solid performances overall. Michael Pataki, in particular, was wonderful as the villainous Sgt. Ward. Hey made Ward a sleazy and menacing figure. There was an air of unpredictability to him. You never knew what he was going to do or how far he was willing to go to get something he wants, which made him chilling. Of course, it seemed like every time I saw Pataki in a movie or television show, he was usually playing the heavy so it’s no surprise he’d excel here. I also wanted to mention that the cinematography was pretty good, and I feel like Jerry Jameson did a fairly decent job as a director.

The make-up effects were provided by the legendary Stan Winston, and it’s one of the few times I was not impressed by him. I’ve always loved his work, but for some reason, the man-bat make-up didn’t really work for me. I found it to be the worst looking make-up Winston’s ever done, looking cheesy and rather laughable. Instead of instilling a sense of horror, Beck’s appearance in man-bat form just inspired chuckles. To give credit where it’s due though, the worst Winston’s done in his career is still worlds better than 99% of what other people can do for low budget movies like this one.

My main complaint that this movie was fairly dull. It wasn’t particularly exciting, didn’t build much tension, and tried to get me invested in characters I didn’t care about. The pacing of the film at times made it feel too slow, and the kills lacked any lasting punch. I’m not saying we needed them to be gory affairs, but they just seemed tame and lacked any real horror. The movie would have been more effective if Beck himself had been more compelling. His initial attempts to hide his metamorphosis instead of getting immediate help for it made him look like an idiot. The movie never gave a good explanation for why he initially wanted to conceal his condition, and doing so would have gone a long way to making an audience invested in his fate. Beck’s sometimes dismissive attitude about his wife’s concerns came across as sexist, which really didn’t do him any favors. If he had been a tad more likable, The Bat People may have done a better job building tension.

The Bat People is not a terrible film, but it’s not particularly a good one either. It’s just a bad flick that has a few good elements that never does enough to elevate it. It isn’t even in the category of being one you can have a laugh making fun of it since it’s a little boring. It’s not really worth anyone’s time.

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