The Bat People

| July 13, 2017

That we can now order The Bat People (a.k.a. It Lives By Night (1974)) on Blu-ray is astonishing. The release of this disc alone is a testament to just how significant the work that the folks over at Scream Factory are doing for horror cinema preservation. Sure, films like John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and Return of the Living Dead (1985) need to be given full-blown Collector’s Edition releases packed with loads of bonus content, but they aren’t the only films deserving of an HD release. In fact, I’d argue that most if not all films deserve to be preserved in the best quality possible, especially weird, forgotten horror movies from the 1970’s—my personal favorite decade of horror cinema!

Scream Factory’s commitment to releasing well-known titles like Carrie (1976) even as they commit non-canon films like The Car (1977) to Blu-ray shows a respect for the genre and its audience that you’re not likely to see from more mainstream studio distributors. Yet you’ll see people complaining at Scream Factory about their release slate constantly. Would I sell a portion of lifespan just to have some of my favorite films on Blu-ray at this very moment? Probably. However, that those films aren’t on Blu-ray isn’t Scream Factory’s fault; they can’t control what they are and aren’t able to get the rights to.

Now I know Scream Factory is a company that likely won’t live or die based on this one reviewer’s recommendation and that people complaining online is an inevitability. Still, I wanted to use this space to highlight just how impressed I am that Scream Factory is willing to put out oddball titles like The Bat People on Blu-ray. Their transfer of Bat People is beautiful and the film no doubt looks better here than it has since its original release. (It looks worlds better than it did on Mystery Science Theater 3000, that’s for sure!)

And Scream Factory’s releasing Bat People why? Presumably because they have the rights, it’s likely that a bunch of us cult film lovers will want to see it, and it should be seen in the best quality version possible if we’re going to pay for it. It’s a bit of logic that’s ignored by studio distributors who release films on Digital HD-only that many of us would pay handsomely for on physical HD. For that, I as a horror hound am immensely grateful for what Scream Factory does!

Does Bat People deserve to be seen though? If you’re a fan of horror oddities, then it absolutely should be seen. Director Jerry Jameson’s (Airport ’77, Raise the Titanic) The Bat People is a surprisingly restrained story about a man who may or may not be transforming into some sort of half-man, half-bat hybrid. Jameson plays it coy with the audience throughout, refusing to reveal until the latter stages of the narrative whether our protagonist John is indeed some kind of werebat or he’s merely suffering rabies-induced hallucinations as a result of a bat bite.

Regardless of the truth of John’s condition, we still get to watch him descend into homicidal madness and rampage around the mountain village in which he and his wife Cathy are vacationing. He’s perpetually sweating. He’s raving about bats. He’s smashing up store window displays to steal cardigans and attacking pot-smoking teens! He steals an ambulance and we follow him on a ludicrously-involved car chase through the desert, asking ourselves why the hell there’s such an elaborate car chase in the middle of a movie supposedly about bat people.

The film is such an oddity in fact that it was, as noted above, featured under the title It Lives by Night on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during the show’s tenth season, and it was a perfect fit. The film offers a wealth of comedic possibilities thanks to its protagonist’s erratic behavior and the endless cutaways to close-ups of jabbering bat faces and bat-related stock footage, not to mention its insane, bloody conclusion. It’s a terrific episode of MST3K that was not only included on Vol. XXX of Shout! Factory’s series of MST3K DVD releases, but is also featured on The Bat People disc as a special feature, giving you two ways to watch the film on one release. Now that’s value.

The Bat People debuts on Blu-ray from Scream Factory on July 18, 2017. Special features on the disc include the aforementioned episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a still gallery and theatrical trailers. Pick yourself up a copy and tell Scream Factory we want more of the weird and obscure!

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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