With little to drive its story, The Leech Woman has nothing of note other than a somewhat hard edge for a 1960s film and a strong performance from Coleen Gray. It falls under the sci-fi category, but is more of a slasher film, minus what makes many of those so popular. This is a dull, low budget quickie.
The films starts with a heated argument between husband and wife. In between shots of alcohol and even some mild physical violence against a woman surprising for the era, a divorce is settled. However, when the husband (Phillip Terry) promises her eternal youth, she calls it off for a trip to stock footage… err, Africa.
Coleen Gray plays the wife, and does so wonderfully. She’s an alcoholic, in an abusive relationship, and wanders between emotions in her increasingly desperate quest for her youth. When the youth serum is discovered, it turns out she needs to kill to complete the formula for mere hours of beauty or revert back to sloppy, folding make-up.
This obsessive drive is the lead narrative, and could have been effective if it was handled properly. Instead, we’re treated to countless scenes of obvious stock footage, predictable plot twists, and unidentified insanity. Gray’s character is understandably at the bottom, yet she shows little interest in anyone of the male persuasion until the final scenes. Her youth doesn’t gain her much of anything, and it’s more her character to go for the money selling this product.
Even at 77 minutes, the film drags. The one action sequence is impressive. Destroying an entire village with dynamite is always a way to get a crowd riled. Unfortunately, none of this energy carries over, and the final scene could not have been handled any worse. The static deaths are bland, and the fate of Gray’s aging character would have been the same regardless of whether or not she killed herself.
Universal produced this clunky horror piece purely to place it on a double bill with Hammer’s Brides of Dracula. The request for refunds would have been overwhelming had it played by itself. A movie about a woman truly turning into a leech-type creature at least would have led to some campy fun.
Video is fine in this 1.85:1 DVD presentation. Grain and dirt is apparent, but the image is sharp overall. Stock footage is likely more obvious now than it was originally. Contrast and black levels are fine. The print is free of defects, impressive to say the least for a low budget cheapie from the early ‘60s.
Audio is unremarkable 2.0 mono. Dialogue is clean, and the soundtrack is inserted without interfering or overwhelming other audio.
Extras include nothing more than a trailer. Chapter stops are only an option once into the film.
The Leech Woman is available at Best Buy in an exclusive five-movie set. The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection Volume 2 houses Universal classics in a sharp, fold-out case. While none of the films have any notable extras, the presentations are wonderful.