Bat People, The (1974)
Cast: Stewart Moss, Marianne McAndrew, Michael Pataki, Paul Carr, Arthur Space
Director: Jerry Jameson
Nutshell: Randy scientist gets bitten by a bat and rather than turn into a superhero, he starts mutating into something rather unsavoury leaving his poor loving wife traumatized.
Blissfully happy middle-aged couple troop off for their work cum delayed honeymoon trip to the exotic locales of some Salt Caves before heading off for the ski slopes. Husband Johnny is a rising medical scientist who works specifically on finding natural cures for viruses to help the immune system and thus examines all sorts of animals and plants in the course of his studies.
After an opening sequence featuring some bats squeaking loudly in close up there is a languid romantic song “Take Me Away….” Accompanying the titles before we are introduced to the loving couple. Johnny has recurring dreams about being attacked by bats. Soon enough the couple trudge off for their trip and all is going well when all of a sudden Johnny hears a strange drone like sound that seems to be drawing closer and he has a momentary lapse of control but then manages to calm himself. A fruit bat flies out of nowhere and lands up on their blanket. Johnny is fascinated but Beth is disgusted and hastens a quick trip to the salt mines. As they follow a group of tourists being shown through the Salt Mines Beth starts to have some naughty thoughts and beckons her husband to detach himself from the group and join her for a little hanky-panky right in the middle of the mines!
While they find a secluded spot, Beth loses her footing and goes tumbling down a hole ending up in a pit with a bunch of flesh eating mites. They are again attacked by bats but make it out of the pit just in time to receive much needed medical care.
The first sign of trouble is when Johnny reacts with extraordinary violence to the rabies vaccine and also flies off the handle with his wife on more than one occasion only to completely forget anything he said or did moments later. Then one night he suffers another of his seizures but this time his hands starts to transform into something resembling the black, leathery skin of a bat! He lapses into his rage-like state and murders the resident nurse but then conveniently forgets all his actions just moments later as his skin and appearance slowly return to normal.
The sleazy local sheriff has his suspicions but is more concerned about scoring with Beth whom he serenades in the most distastefully obvious way. Meanwhile Johnny starts to doubt himself as the murderous impulses start to return whenever night falls and there is a string of unexplained deaths in the community that all point in his direction.
Meanwhile Beth has to fight off the lecherous Sheriff while trying to find help for her husband who appears to be falling further and further into a quagmire and turning more and more into a fruit bat-like beast with each passing day.
Johnny escapes from care and runs amok on an horrific killing spree over which he has no control. Finally, oddly magnetized to the salt caves where the bats originally sprung from, he lurches back to the mines where he finds some solace and later, his wife Beth, having fought off the advances of the Sheriff also staggers to the mines to fulfil her destiny as a dutiful and virtuous wife and joins her husband to spend the rest of her days as a one of the Bat People.
The off-beat sort of ending fails to create any impact when it arrives because the film has thus far been so incredibly dreary and mind-numbing that any audience would have ceased to be least bothered about what happens to any of the main characters during the course of the movie. There is absolutely nothing to sustain interest and sadly there is not even enough humour even unintentional to save this from the tedium it wallows in. After the first quarter of an hour the film plateaus horribly and meanders painfully, plodding on to its complete running time at an infernal pace. It has none of the charm, nor sense of fun nor clunky effects to sustain it and soon enough it just fritters out into an exercise in mind-dulling ennui.
This film was released in 1974 and unsurprisingly bombed the first day of release. This kind of transformation creature feature was the thing back in the 50’s and most of those were zany and hugely entertaining but his tepid piece of torpor is simply a fairly taxing test of endurance. The Bat People should really have been a hoot but sadly ends up as a horribly uninvolving and uniquely dull experience.