The Leech Woman (1960)

The film opens with a wondrous sequence of a married couple viciously bickering. He’s a heartless and obnoxious scientist continuously preoccupied with his work (the secret to rejuvenation) and she’s a depressed and alcohol addicted wreck due to his cruelty. When Dr. Talbot meets the 152 year old Malla, he realizes her native tribe holds the secret of eternal youth and follows his patient to the heart of the African jungle. There they witness a ritual that turns the old and wrinkled Malla into a stunning beauty with just a few drops of juice coming from a dying man’s pineal gland. The slick Dr. Talbot wants the formula and attempts to win his wife back in order to use her as a guinea pig, but the joke turns against him when the rejuvenating woman needs to select a man to sacrifice and, obviously, June picks her beloved husband. She returns to the States as a young and stunningly beautiful young woman, but she needs to kill random men and milk their pineal glands in order to stay desirable.

“The Leech Woman” definitely has a pretty cool and eventful script; you just need to overlook a copious number of plot holes, improbabilities and continuity errors. There’s no real suspense to enjoy, but nonetheless plenty of action and a handful of impressive make-up effects (especially the make-up that makes old women look even older). However, the movie’s greatest achievement is presumably an unintentional one: pure and genuine irony! Although a story that constantly revolves on beauty and popularity, the cast of characters only includes shallow, substantially ugly and insupportable individuals. At least Dr. Talbot is a bastard right from the start, but all the others gradually turn into intolerable people. The pitiable and humiliated wife becomes a relentless killer, the fragile old lady becomes a stone-cold tribe leader, the helpful guide transforms into a shallow runaway lover, the devoted attorney becomes an adulterous jerk and the cherubic fiancée changes into a jealous fury. Honestly, I’ve rarely seen such an unpleasant and even downright misanthropic collection of people playing together in one film … and that’s sort of fascinating!