(director: Wesley Ruggles; screenwriters: story by Dorothy Yost, Bess Meredyth, John Howard Lawson; cinematographer: Ira Morgan; editor: Harry Reynolds; cast: Charles Bickford (John Dennis/Reverend Sims), Raquel Torres (Nina), Nils Asther (Carl), George F. Marion (Antone), John Miljan (Juan), Mack Swain (Dutchy), Mathilde Comont (Mimba), Boris Karloff (Corsican), Edmond Breese (Capt. Maddocks), Gibson Gowland (Limey); Runtime: 74; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Wesley Ruggles; MGM; 1930-B/W)

It’s a pulpish B film,  that had some sting.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Wesley Ruggles is replaced by Lionel Barrymore during the production.

The adventure tale is a love story about sponge divers on Portuga, an impoverished island in the West Indies (part of it was filmed on location in Mazatlán, Mexico). The Sea Bat is based on a story by Dorothy Yost, and is written by Bess Meredyth and John Howard Lawson.

The sea bat is a giant ray.

The feral Nina (Raquel Torres, overacts) is the loving sister of Carl (Nils Asther), a sponge diver believed to be killed by a sea bat
attack while on a sponge dive, but actually his vile, jealous fellow diver, Juan (John Miljan), cuts his life-line during the attack on the boat and dies from a lack of oxygen. Juan was rejected by Nina and takes his revenge out on her brother.

Soon after an escaped convict from Devil’s Island, John Dennis, posing as the priest Reverend Sims (Charles Bickford), arrives in Portuga on a tramp steamer. Nina’s drunk father, the disrespected Antone (George F. Marion), the head of the Mexican community of sponge fishermen, sets the fake priest up in a house and encourages him to reform his wild daughter, who seeks comfort from her grief by chanting voodoo ritual with the natives after rejecting Christianity because her brother died wearing a cross.

With the help of two other buddies, Juan jumps the convict and they take him by rowboat to Devil’s Island to get the reward for the wanted man, but the sea bat attacks and only the convict escapes.

John Dennis returns to Nina, and decides to return to prison to pay his debt and then be will be free to marry Nina.

It’s a pulpish B film, that had some sting.

The film’s best line has the hard-pressed Captain Maddocks (Edmond Breese) say this is the worst island he’s ever hunted for sponges, ‘the natives pray all day with their voodoo and the whites sleep all day.’

The Sea Bat