The Leech Woman (1960) starring Coleen Gray, Philip Terry, John Van Dreelen, Grant Williams
Reviewed by: The masked reviewer
In The Leech Woman, Dr. Paul Talbot (Philip Terry) is searching for the perfect formula to make women look younger, when an elderly woman named Malla (Estelle Hemsley) comes claiming to be 140 years old. She also claims to know the secret to reverse aging, but the ingredients are in Africa. Paul is ready to throw the old woman out until she says that other doctors would test the powder before calling her a fraud.
Meanwhile, Paul’s depressed, alcoholic wife June (Coleen Gray) has had enough of his emotional abuse and has begun the divorce proceedings. When Paul returns home he convinces his upset wife to join him on a business trip to Africa, under the pretence to save their marriage. They find Malla’s tribe and are amazed to discover that all of her claims are true. You’ll have to see this film for yourself because its a lot fun to watch.
Where most horror films from the fifties and early sixties were about giant monsters, or the red scare, The Leech Woman is about misogyny. The Leech Woman is also about how women are perceived by people as they lose their youth. June’s story is a tragedy that is all too common.
Bud Westmore’s makeup for The Leech Woman is interesting. Malla’s old age makeup looks like gravy poured all over her face. I know that she’s supposed to look over 140, but I’ve seen Mr. Westmore do much better. June has three looks in the film, the sleep-deprived woman, the young beauty, and the old woman. The first two looks are fine but I’m going to focus on the third. June’s old woman makeup is impressive for the time, the wrinkles are in the right place, and it actually looks like June has aged 30 years
The Leech Woman is an entertaining film. The themes are interesting, and well done for the budget, and care given to them which wasn’t much. The ideas are interesting, and told in a compelling way. Most of the characters were interesting, mainly due to the actors, and actresses playing them. The Leech Woman has its flaws: the beginning is slow, and the ending is rushed, but that’s how the studio wanted it. This is a great B movie, it’s fun to watch, and leaves you thinking about it afterwards.
I rate it 3/5 stars
June Talbot (Coleen Gray, Red River, The Killing): A heartbroken woman that has been drowning her sorrow for years. She adores her husband but is mistreated by him at every turn. She wants a better life, but only does something about it when she is forced to act.Dr. Paul Talbot (Philip Terry, The Lost Weekend, The Monster and the Girl): A misogynist, that openly insults his wife. A cold, difficult man that has little regard for human life.
Bertram Garvay (John Van Dreelen, Von Ryan’s Express): A guide that the Talbots hire to help them find Malla’s tribe. He’s a gambler that risks his life, and career to find this mysterious tribe.
Old Malla (Estelle Hemsley) : A wise, patient woman, sold into slavery 140 years ago. All she wants to do is go to Africa, and find her tribe before she dies. Her determination has helped her survive.
Young Malla (Kim Hamilton, General Hospital): A livelier, happier, and obviously younger Malla.
Neil Foster (Grant Williams, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Monolith Monsters): A foolish, naive lawyer that is friends with June, and is disgusted with how Paul treats her.
Sally (Gloria Talbott, We’re No Angels, The Cyclops): Neil’s fiancee, and employee of Paul. She is bothered by Paul’s treatment of June.