The West Indies island of Portuga exists mainly for sponge diving. But the best area of collection is frequented by a very large manta ray. Nina loses her lover to the creature and is ... See full summary »
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The West Indies island of Portuga exists mainly for sponge diving. But the best area of collection is frequented by a very large manta ray. Nina loses her lover to the creature and is comforted by a newly arrived minister, who seems very interested in an old poster offering a reward for a convict recently escaped from nearby Devil's Island. More deaths attributed to the sea bat follow before Nina resolves her feelings for her comforter. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
Wesley Ruggles began directing THE SEA BAT but Lionel Barrymore completed it. This would account for the contrast between the outdoor scenes, shot on Mexican locations, and the interiors, particularly a sponge-diving episode, filmed in the studio tank, and some dialog between Charles Bickford and Raquel Torres.
The exteriors bear all the hallmarks of Ruggles - in particular a long tracking shot following Torres through the ramshackle village to the dock, where the sponge fishing boat is about to leave with her brother Asther aboard. The hand of Ruggles is also evident in the scene of Torres fending off potential rape on the rocky seashore, the star pulling a knife and snarling defiance at John Miljan and cronies as spray soaks her flimsy blouse (revealing a pre-code absence of lingerie.)
On the other hand, one is inclined to lay at Barrymore's door an embarrassing voodoo sequence, with Torres performing an unconvincing dance, and also the scene where she tries to vamp Bickford as he stolidly studies the Bible.
The casting, as often in early sound films, mixes talents on the way up with once-eminent silent performers working out the end of their contracts; Charles Bickford and Boris Karloff among the former, Gibson Gowland (GREED), Nils Asther (WILD ORCHIDS)and Mack Swain (Keystone) the latter. George F. Marion parades another of his excruciating accents, a serious rival to his performance in ANNA Christie as Garbo's father.
Considerable effort has gone into creating the manta ray "bat",a towed semi-submersible on the order of "Bruce", the shark in JAWS. More whale than ray, it spouts, and overturns boats. This impressive piece of physical special effects, as usual with early studio productions, is uncredited.
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