‘Forever young! Forever deadly! She lived off the life blood of male victims!’
The Leech Woman is a 1960 American science fiction horror film directed by Edward Dein (Curse of the Undead) from a screenplay by David Duncan (The Black Scorpion; Monster on the Campus; The Time Machine). The script is based on a storyline by Ben Pivar, who produced several Mummy films for Universal.
Universal-International commissioned this low budget film from producer Joseph Greshenson, which is padded with a plethora of jungle stock footage, because they needed a second feature to play as a double feature with the US release of The Brides of Dracula. The film’s working title was The Leech.
A mysterious old woman named Malla (Estelle Hemsley) who claims to have been brought to America 140 years ago by Arab slavers approaches endocrinologist Dr. Paul Talbot (Phillip Terry) and promises to reveal to him the secret of eternal youth.
Following her back to Africa, he and his aging, unhappy wife June (Coleen Gray) witness a secret ceremony of the Nando tribe that utilizes orchid pollen and a male victim’s pineal gland secretions extracted from the back of the neck via a special ring to temporarily transform Malla once more into a young and beautiful girl (Kim Hamilton).
After discovering her conniving husband only brought her along as a test subject, June steals the ring and escapes back to the United States alone where, pretending to be her own ‘niece’ Terry Hart, she proceeds to keep herself young by killing men for their pineal extract…
“There’s a lot not to like about The Leech Woman. The distractingly obvious old-age makeup, the tiki-bar African village, the intensely racist portrayal of the Nandos and the Talbots’ native bearers, the dreary slog through the stock-footage jungle, and so on. What makes up for all that is how charmingly nasty and mean-spirited this movie is.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“The premise isn’t entirely new, but neither is it worn out (yet). Even if things are fairly predictable, there is enough food for thought in the script to make it rewarding. While the directing and cinematography are not remarkable, the pace seldom bogs down (other than some trudging through the jungle scenes).” Classic Sci-Fi Movies
“Gray is excellent when playing both her younger and older selves. She is smart and driven, but also vulnerable. Although we never really like or admire her, we understand her motives. The script seems to deliberately suggest that women can become unexpectedly powerful and that men ought to stop abusing women or else women will take deadly revenge … It’s all very good for a second-bill B-movie.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“Bud Westmore’s striking makeup is the most notable feature of this workmanlike offering, the last to be directed by Dein, a Poverty Row regular.” The Aurum Encyclopedia of Film: Science Fiction