02 August 2014

The Leech Woman (1960)
77 min.
Directed by Edward Dein.
With Grant Williams, Coleen Gray, Phillip Terry, Gloria Talbott.
Christopher Robinson
‘She drained men of their loves and lives!’

So touts the tagline of The Leech Woman, often distinguished as the last in the long tradition of Universal Studios’ classic horror genre.

An endocrinologist, Dr. Talbot (Phillip Terry) and his wife June (Coleen Gray) are an unhappy couple in their fifties considering divorce, until they take a trip to Africa where Dr. Talbot seeks an age reversal elixir.

There, they witness a grotesque ritual where orchid pollen is combined with a hormone drained from a native’s neck after he is murdered with a special ring.

One gulp and a few bursts of smoke later, an elderly woman is temporarily 18 years old again. Upon learning of her husband’s plan to betray her, she signs on for the gig, volunteering her hubby as the sacrificial donor.

Escaping the village’s mayhem with the ring and pollen, June returns to America, replenishing her youth with a daily formula of murder cocktails. But as the bodycount rises in this horror/sci-fi hybrid, it’s June's time, not her youth, which runs out.

Like Roger Corman’s The Wasp Woman (1959), which may have influenced it, the emotional effects of aging are examined in horrific, suspenseful style.

Just one question remains. If the makeup artists spent time making the young actresses older, why then did separate actresses play their younger selves?

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