Saturday, November 25, 1972: Devil Bat’s Daughter (1940) / My Son the Vampire (1953)

Synopsis: A young woman (Rosemary LaPlanche) is found lying face-down on the highway late at night, and a passing good Samaritan stops and takes her to the Sheriff’s office.  She is conscious but in a catatonic state. A local cabbie identifies her as the fare he picked up earlier that evening.  She’d wanted to go to the “old Carruthers place”.  When the cabbie told her the place has  been deserted for years, she reacted with a shocked expression.  Nevertheless it is at the Carruthers place that the cabbie leaves her.

Surmising that the woman’s missing bag must still be at the house, the county Sheriff (Ed Cassidy) and local physician Dr. Eliot (Nolan Leary) go there in hopes of finding a clue to the woman’s identity.  In the woman’s bag they discover a passport that identifies her as Nina MacCarron, the daughter of the late mad scientist Paul Carruthers, who had terrorized many people with his giant mutated bats some years earlier. “That means she’s the Devil Bat’s Daughter!” one of the men exclaims, apparently forgetting that the Devil Bat was what the bat was called in the previous movie, not the scientist.


Believing that Nina is suffering from some sort of psychological shock, Dr. Eliot places Nina under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Clifton Morris (Michael Hale). Over a number of weeks, Dr. Morris helps Nina reconstruct her broken memory: she had been living in England for most of her life. Dr. Carruthers had left her family when Nina was only four years old.  Traumatized by the recent death of her mother and by the stress of the London blitz, she travels to America to find her father, only to find that he had died under the accusation of terrible crimes.

During this intensive therapy Nina stays at the Morris household, and we get a view of the respected psychiatrist’s home. There is growing friction between Morris and his wife, the wealthy Ellen Masters Morris. Ellen has a weak heart, and a son from a previous marriage, who is expected home soon from the war.  For his part, Morris is keeping a mistress on the side named Myra (Monica Mars), who wants a commitment.  Even though Morris explains that he would lose out financially if he divorced Ellen, Myra won’t relent.  Don’t call me, Myra warns Morris, until you’re ready to get Ellen out of your life.

Soon Ted Masters arrives home from the war; he and Nina quickly fall in love.  But Nina is troubled by strange dreams — of giant bats that are trying to control her. One night Nina awakens from one such dream to discover that she has killed the Morris family dog with a pair of scissors. Dr. Morris suggests she be moved to a sanitarium for the family’s safety, but the kind-hearted Ellen disagrees, and Nina stays.

But a few nights later, after another disturbing dream, Nina awakens to find herself lying in the hallway holding a pair of bloody scissors.  And nearby lies the body of Ellen Masters Morris….

Comments: Lyz Kingsley at And You Call Yourself a Scientist! calls this programmer “quite a good little film”, and reading her review I had to concede that I have overlooked its better points. But in my own defense I overlooked them because of the movie’s clumsy retcon of Dr. Paul Carruthers, played in the original film by Bela Lugosi.

In The Devil Bat, Dr. Carruthers is a deranged chemist who breeds giant carnivorous bats, trains them to react violently to a scent he’s added to a shaving lotion, gives bottles of that same lotion to his enemies, and then, when they apply the lotion to “the tender part of the neck” and then walk outside, the bats swoop in from above, ripping out the victims’ jugular veins. Heh heh, even as I type this I must pause to rub my hands together with evil glee!

As plans go, it’s so over-the-top that it’s very difficult to forget. Which is too bad, because Devil Bat’s Daughter really wants you to forget. At the end of the movie, we’re asked to believe that Dr. Carruthers was actually a wonderful, kindly man whose experiments in breeding giant, carnivorous bats were simply misunderstood after some of his experimental animals got loose and killed a few people. Hey, it happens.

Add to this the explained-away ending borrowed from She-Wolf of London and a number of other contemporary films , and the psychiatrist-as-amoral-bad-guy borrowed from Cat People, and you have a pretty standard set-up for a horror film of this era.

In her review Kingsley points out that some of the relationships – particularly the ones in the Morris household — are drawn with unexpected nuance and subtlety. It’s easy to miss, because the plot points are hidden under a junkheap of bad dialogue. Rosemary LaPlanche, a beauty queen who had won a movie contract with RKO, had something of a disappointing acting career, scoring lead roles only in this film and another PRC programmer Strangler of the Swamps, which was also directed by Frank Wisbar. That film actually featured LaPlanche’s best work and it may be the most interesting movie PRC ever did, with the possible exception of Detour and Lugosi’s own The Devil Bat.

My Son the Vampire

Synopsis: Scotland Yard is searching frantically for a man known as “The Vampire”, a scientist by the name of Van Housen (Bela Lugosi), who is descended from Transylvanian nobility and who is believed to drink the blood of young women in order to extend his lifespan.

Van Housen sleeps in a coffin and affects the dress and manner of a vampire, but what he really wants to do is to build an army of robots that will take over the world.  So far, he has built only one prototype, which he calls Mark 1.

Van Housen orders Mark 1 delivered to his laboratory (apparently through a conventional shipping company)  but by accident the crate containing it is mixed up with another crate meant for an Irish washerwoman known as Old Mother Riley (Arthur Lucan).  Soon Van Housen discovers the mix-up and orders Mark 1 to come to the lab and bring Riley along as well.  Seeing an opportunity for fresh blood, the scientist gives Riley a light housekeeping job, but insists on fattening her up with fresh steak and liver.

 In order to build his army, Van Housen needs large quantities of uranium, and in order to get that, he needs a map in the possession of Julia Loretti (Maria Mercedes), who has recently returned from an expedition to South America.  Even though he has Loretti in his laboratory and in a trance, Van Housen has been unable to discover where the map is hidden.

Discovering that not only Loretti but all the missing women are being held captive by Van Housen, Riley escapes from the mansion and runs to the nearest police station to report the crime.  However,  because a clumsy drunkard at the police station has accidentally doused her with gin, the hysterical Riley reeks of alcohol, and the police decide to arrest her for disorderly conduct….

Comments: The last of Arthur Lucan’s Old Mother Riley pictures, this film sported three different titles: It was Mother Riley Meets the Vampire in its native England and (because the franchise was unknown outside of the UK) Vampire Over London for the US market. A decade later, the movie was re-released as My Son the Vampire. This was because Alan Sherman, who’d scored a couple of novelty hits and was at the zenith of his career at the time, needed some promotion for his latest novelty album — a collection of Halloween-themed songs. So for the re-release it sported the title My Son the Vampire and Sherman’s song with the same name was played over the opening credits. The trailer for the re-release doesn’t feature any footage of the film at all (probably wise) and implies that the content of the film at least has some tenuous connection to the song (it doesn’t).

As a public service, here are the lyrics to the Alan Sherman song. I have to assume this was the strongest of the bunch:

My son, the vampire,
He’ll make you a wreck.
Every time he kisses you,
There’ll be two holes in your neck.

My son, the vampire,
He will leave you pale.
All he does is drink your blood,
’cause he don’t like ginger ale.

When they see him, people scream, and they yell.
And they scream and yell ’cause they’re scared as heck that he’ll say…

My son, the vampire,
He’s a total loss.
And if you should meet with him,
Do not drink or eat with him.
Run if he takes out his dental floss.
‘Cause my son, the vampire, ain’t collecting it for the Red Cross!
He wants…

Blood!

He needs…

Blood!

He drinks…

Blood!

[spoken]
Doesn’t everybody?
Have a glass!
It’s delicious!
Yum yum!
It’s…

Blood!

As a novelty song, it’s pretty dismal. As a film, it does not hold up well under repeated viewings (I should know, I’ve seen it repeatedly). Having a man parade around in a dress was a staple of music-hall comedy and the British seem to find it automatically hilarious. And it’s true that Arthur Lucan’s Mother Riley persona was popular for many years.

But by the early 1950s the act was getting pretty threadbare, and clearly looking for some novelty himself, Lucan recruited Bela Lugosi, who happened to be over in England for a stage show that wound up not happening (a number of sources claim the show in question was Arsenic and Old Lace, but in an interview Lugosi himself said it was a revival of Dracula). Lugosi got a $5,000 check, his name (with Lucan’s) over the title on the one-sheet, and an opportunity to do a comedy for a change, which he seems to greatly enjoy.

The movie is pretty insubstantial and silly stuff, but faintly amusing if you like what Mother Riley is selling. While Lugosi doesn’t look great in this film, it’s probably the last film in which he doesn’t simply look ill and broken-down. He does about as well as anyone could in this ramshackle bit of slapstick comedy — he’s an old pro and far more engaging than Lucan himself.

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One comment

  1. DEVIL BAT’S DAUGHTER can’t be as bad as SHE-WOLF OF LONDON, but I could be wrong. MY SON THE VAMPIRE gives Bela some amusing lines, which is more than I can say for Mother Riley. An early credit for director John Gilling, of THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS, THE SHADOW OF THE CAT, THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, and THE REPTILE for Hammer.

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