The Leech Woman (1960)

A few years before Mondo Cane would popularize the use of tribal footage, The Leech Woman takes scenes of African wildlife and tribal dances from the 1954 adventure movie Tanganyika to spice up its tale of a middle aged woman becoming young again by, well, becoming a leech woman.

It starts off promising — a mysterious old woman named Malla (Estelle Hemsley, who was an early African-American star) claims to have been brought to America as a slave nearly 140 years ago and wants to be beauitiful and young for one more night, but only in her home country of Africa. To pay for the trip, she promises to teach endocrinologist Dr. Paul Talbot the secret of how she has stayed alive for so many years.

Dr. Paul is the kind of jerk given to saying things like “Old women give me the creeps.” Too bad that he’s married to a woman ten years older than him. But after a trip to Africa, in which he witnesses a ritual in which a man is killed and his pineal gland secretions harvested and mixed with orchid pollen.

His wife turns the tables and kills off Dr. Paul, using his glands to become young again — yet gets older every time it wears off — murdering people under the secret identity of her niece Terry Hart. She falls for a lawyer and tries to use the glands of his girlfriend, but it doesn’t work, so she does what we all would: throws herself to a window, leaving behind a husk.

Director Edward Dein also made Curse of the Undead. This movie was made so that Universal-International would have a movie to play with Hammer’s Brides of Blood. That movie is magic. This perhaps not so much.

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