The Bat People (1974)

PLOT:

Johnny (a handsome bat and/or rock doctor), and Kathy (his high-maintenance dumb twit of a wife) are newlyweds (that’s their first mistake, as newlyweds in creature features are always doomed). They are honeymooning in New Mexico; enjoying desert picnics (until a stray bat ruins it), spelunking in Carlsbad Caverns (again, until a stray bat ruins it), and they even do a little slow-motion downhill skiing. While touring the cavern the two of them decide to wander off from the group and find a place to fornicate (there are mistakes #2 and #3), but stupid Kathy falls into a maggot and beetle-infested cave pocket and Johnny is (surprise!) bitten by a bat when he attempts to rescue her. He has a series of angry seizures and bat-related nightmares. Soon Johnny actually begins to physically change, and that’s when people start dying mysteriously. The town sherrif, a mildly despicable womanizer who shoplifts for kicks, becomes suspicious and a standard game of cat and mouse (or, forgive me, bat and louse) ensues.

SCORING:

  • Ambition – 7

I felt like these people were dedicated to their art. It is certainly not the first and obviously not the only movie about a man-bat, but the film makers put serious effort into making it artsy and interesting. And it kind of is.

  • Presentability – 6

Serve wine (in hospital blood-storage bags if possible) and play the drinking game outlined below.

  • Sex and Violence – 5

The scene where Johnny Manbat gives it to his annoying wife could have been great, but was disappointingly executed. The lecherous sheriff character had a couple of funny scenes. Good, gory violence was definitely lacking, although there was a particularly violent assault on a mannequin. At least, I think it was supposed to be a mannequin…

Johnny Manbat pressures a nurse to open the blood storage cabinet.

  • Performance – 9

The leading man in this movie was brilliant. His facial expressions, his line delivery, everything. He was totally committed. Bill Shatner couldn’t have done it better himself.

Lego man hair + huge shaggy 'stache = 1974.

  • Datability – 8

70s hair galore.  The large number of station wagons, most of them wood-paneled, and the generous use of bongos in the chase scenes are also testament to the film’s hilarious 70s feel.

  • Script – 7

The writing was mostly straightforward. It is well-performed so that may have cast it in a better light. I did enjoy the twist ending, even if it was a little formulaic. I also appreciated the (somewhat)unconventional characterizations: Man-bat is both good and evil, the sheriff has a dark side and Kathy, well, she was just an irritating bitch, but at the very end her character takes on some new and interesting dimensions.

There was one rather excellent, comic book-style speech from Johnny Manbat about his man-to-bat transformation. Some excerpts:

“The first symptoms of my metamorphosis were strange and horrible, medically indescribable. But now the metamorphosis is swift, smooth, painless….natural. I welcome it.”

“Don’t you understand? I’m part of everything now. I’ve journeyed to a belonging.”

Heavy stuff from a man-bat.

One funny line that did absolutely nothing to further the story came from a doomed pot-smoking teenager:  “I think I got slipped oregano again!”  Does that ever really happen?  Wouldn’t you be able to tell if your weed smells like pizza?

  • Relevance – 4

Love conquers all. Bo-ring.

  • Originality – 4

He’s basically Batman, but without the tights or the urge to fight crime.

  • Cinematography – 5

I don’t know if it’s what they were going for, but the camera work during the car chase made me feel physically ill. So that’s something, right? But all that stock footage of bats? Really? Come on.

  • Production Design – 6

The music was pretty good. The special effects left me cold. We only see Johnny Manbat briefly in his bat-form, and the mask he wears looks like it was borrowed from the set of the Planet of the Apes TV show, which, coincidentally, was filmed the same year. There was definitely not enough gore. I’m still quite confused about the mannequin death scene. It was clearly a mannequin. It’s hand broke off and the head actually shattered on the pavement the way a big dry empty vase would shatter, not a goo-filled cranium. But then later Johnny tells the doctor that he killed this man. And stole his sweater for some reason…

TOTAL: 61

Changing the diaper of the mutant baby you bore whose father is a creepy cave-dwelling blood-sucking man-bat.

Drinking Game:

Drink anytime the following happens-

-Johnny Manbat rolls his eyes back in his head

Chug-a-lug.

-the sheriff lasciviously ogles a pretty lady

-you want to slap the shit out of Kathy and make her suck it

-they use crappy old black and white stock footage of bats

-a hobo waxes philosophical about the freedom of alcoholism

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~ by mgjk on January 8, 2010.

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