Friday night at the home drive-in: The Leech Woman (1960)

Poster for The Leech Woman (1960)The Leech Woman (1960) by #EdwardDein w/#ColeenGray #GrantWilliams #EstelleHemsley

An endocrinologist in a dysfunctional marriage with an aging, alcoholic wife journeys to Africa seeking a drug that will restore youth.

“In the Savage Heart of the Jungle She Found the Forbidden Secret of Eternal Youth!”

“She drained men of their loves and lives”

#Horror #SciFi

DVD cover for The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection.As I’ve mentioned a few times, I fondly remember watching a TV show called Not Quite Classic Theatre when I was young. This is how I was introduced to many horror and sci-fi movies from the 1950s. I happily discovered that some of the movies I can remember from the show have been included in a DVD set from Universal called The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection. This led me to believe that the 10 movies in this set were likely part of a package that Universal licensed to Not Quite Classic Theatre for broadcast all those years ago. Re-watching them all now, many years later, has been an exciting trip down memory lane.

The Leech Woman (1960) is the final movie in the set. The fact that it came out in 1960 may be an indication that the glory days of 1950s monster movies were coming to an end. I don’t remember seeing The Leech Woman on Not Quite Classic Theatre back in the day, but I may well have. As I’ve said before, many of those films are lost in time to me now. They may come back to me if I see them again someday, but I wouldn’t want to count on that. Not Quite Classic Theatre used to show three movies starting at 10:00 PM. By the time the third one came on, my attention may have been somewhat less than perfect.

I’ve actually been putting off watching The Leech Woman (1960) because it kind of feels like the end of an era to me. But truth be told, the past past few days, weeks – months – have been very unusual for me. My childhood home, where I used to watch Not Quite Classic Theatre, was sold (by me) and passed into the hands of the new owners this week. As such, it IS the end of an era for me. And so for that reason, which could perhaps be described as symbolic, I decided that it was time to finally finish The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection.

This does not mean that I will forever be turning my back on 1950’s monster movies. In fact, I intend to return to them very shortly, as I have been enjoying them immensely. But today being Friday the 13th leaves me no choice but to take a short detour into the 1980s (the same decade when Not Quite Classic Theatre aired, actually)

But more on that next time.

The Leech Woman (1960) does not have a particularly good reputation (4.7 on the IMDb and 1.5 stars on AllMovie), but I found it to be a solid entry into the woman-transforming-into-a-monster genre. Other examples might include such films as The Wasp Woman (1959), and The Rejuvenator (1988). Many of these movies deal with an aging woman who wants to be young again – and The Leech Woman is no exception.

As anyone who’s ever seen one of these movies knows, the experimental techniques used to restore youth never quite work out the way the characters might hope. And, in most cases, a monster is unleashed – one that needs blood, or souls, or in the case of The Leech Woman: fluid from a man’s pineal gland, extracted from the back of his neck with a special ceremonial African ring, which is then mixed with orchid pollen (or something like that).

As one might imagine, it’s often necessary to kill people to get such ingredients. And this kind of lifestyle is basically unsustainable – especially in a Hollywood ruled by The Hays Code.

Legend has it that Universal only made The Leech Woman because they needed a second feature to send out with Hammer’s The Brides of Dracula (1960). So, in a way, it was never designed to be a great movie. But I would suggest that it’s much better than it was intended to be – and than it’s reputation might suggest. That’s not to say it’s perfect, or that it doesn’t have problems (racial stereotypes, sexism, ageism, etc.). But for the second or third feature of an all night horror/sci-if movie marathon, it’s just about right.

The Leech Woman (1960) Is a somewhat forgotten #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic – and undeservedly so. Fans of the woman-transforming-into-a-monster genre (come on, you know you’re out there) should definitely give The Leech Woman a chance. I’m glad that I finally saw it, and I will most certainly be giving it another look on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.