Monday, September 4, 2017

The Bat People (1974)



          The problem with The Bat People isn’t that the premise of a man turning into a bat is ridiculous, because creature-feature history is filled with outlandish transformation stories. The problem is that The Bat People is dull. Structurally, the picture follows the familiar template. Protagonist Dr. John Beck (Stewart Moss) receives the wound triggering his change very early in the movie’s running time. Thereafter, he suffers seizures around the same time that mysterious killings occur, causing John to fear that he’s become a killer. His long-suffering wife, Cathy (Marianne McAndrew), seeks help from a friendly physician, Dr. Kipling (Paul Carr). Meanwhile, grotesque cop Sgt. Ward (Michael Pataki) identifies John as a suspect. Et cetera. Of such slender thread countless werewolf and vampire tales have been spun. Yet in those other creature features, the creature gets featured. In The Bat People, viewers don’t see the monster—represented as an early makeup creation by the revered artist Stan Winston—until nearly the end of the story.
          Accordingly, the murder scenes involve generic POV shots, making The Bat People feel like some random serial-killer saga. Worse, almost everything that happens between the murders is drab and repetitive, such as the myriad vignettes of John staggering while his eyes roll over white. There’s not nearly enough weird stuff along the lines of John grabbing a mannequin from a store window and pummeling the mannequin’s head against pavement. Leading man Moss is a poor man’s Bradford Dillman (let that simmer in your brainpan), and leading lady McAndrew renders passable work at best. This means the heavy lifting falls to exploitation-flick regular Pataki, who puts as much oomph as he can into a clichéd role. Some viewers might find a few scenes in The Bat People creepy, such as the one depicting the final fate of Pataki’s character, but getting to these mildly rewarding moments requires trudging through a whole lot of guano.

The Bat People: FUNKY

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