Sunday, September 11, 2005
Perfume at the Movies V: Crime in a Bottle
Lugosi shows off his granite-moving technique.
The Siren watched The Devil Bat (1940) while folding laundry, and it was pretty much ideal for that purpose. It is cute, it requires little mental involvement and if you miss a shot while smoothing out the fitted sheets, oh, what the hell. Bela Lugosi seems to be a kindly village doctor, but in reality, he is a maniac who has formulated an aftershave that attracts large bats. These bats he fattens up in his house (complete with many papier-mache secret doorways) using electromagnetic impulses, which means little light-bulb rays like in Frankenstein. He trains the bats to loathe "thees strange Oriental scent" (why, it's Thierry Mugler Angel, 50 years before its time!). The bats smell it and go for the jugular (Angel, I'm telling you).
The rest of the cast of future unknowns charges about trying to figure out where the giant bats are coming from. The ingenue, Suzanne Kaaren, was vaguely familiar to the Siren from a run-in the former actress had with Donald Trump in the 1980s. She was a rent-control tenant, and Trump wanted her to move, but she wouldn't. The Donald lost that one, so obviously Suzanne was a much tougher cookie than she seems while emitting little shrieks over the bats.
One by one, all the vacuous young men innocently splash on Bela's version of Aqua Velva and get chomped. Of course, Bela won't try any himself; "I haff a violent deeslahk of perfumes," he says forcefully to someone who wants him to sample.
The Devil Bat made the Siren a little sad, too. Less than ten years after Dracula made him a star, Lugosi was in this Poverty Row production, still giving it his all despite costars whose acting rarely rises above the high school spring musical level. It would make an interesting and rather poignant curtain-raiser for a revival of Ed Wood.