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Don’t Open That Door! #57: Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

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Thursday, Oct 3, 2013
Welcome to our ongoing field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: Little blood-sucking pests become enormous blood-slurping nightmares in Attack of the Giant Leeches.
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Attack of the Giant Leeches

Director: Bernard L. Kowalski
Cast: Ken Clark, Yvette Vickers, Jan Shepard, Bruno VeSota

(US theatrical: Oct 1959)

Alternative title: Attack of the Things That Don’t Look Very Much Like Leeches of Any Size


POSITIVES:
* Sassy blonde hillbilly she-cat in revealing outfits!
* Movie’s victims are nasty otter poachers.
* Only 63 minutes long.
  
NEGATIVES:
* Movie is fairly bad.
* Titular oversized parasites resemble water lilies and thus lack power to induce nightmarish fear response.
* 63 minutes feels more like 163.

SYNOPSIS: Down in the Everglades, where a band of otter poachers plies their trade (um, do otters live in swamps?), a new faceless horror is coming alive and terrorizing everything in its path. [See title.] As long as the victims are limited to otter poachers, heck, I don’t care. Do you? But game warden Steve Benton cares a whole bunch—that’s why they made him game warden—and the fact that the local authorities are (all together now) a little slow on the uptake causes him even more concern. Local doctor “Doc” is of the opinion that the terror is being caused by something along the lines of an octopus or squid. Clearly, he ignored the instructions to [See title].



So, Steve goes off into the swamp to hunt the mysterious murderous beasts that killed the local armed hunter…and he takes his girlfriend Nan, the doctor’s daughter, with him. Hey! That makes tons of sense. Apparently she’s come along in order to serve him coffee. They don’t find anything, so it’s up to adulterous locals Liz and Cal to go out and attract some unwanted attention. Which they do, first from jilted husband Dave, and then from [See title]. With bodies disappearing in the swamp at an accelerating rate, Doc wants to go investigating in the swamp. But this time—for once—it’s the hero, game warden Steve, who is unconvinced that there’s anything out there. Sounds like a good time for more people to wind up leech fodder.


At this point we’re halfway through the movie and the pace is glacial. Fortunately, a couple of good ole boys are captured and brought to the leeches’ underground lair—yup, they have an underground lair—and then things start to get a tad more interesting. Because leeches, as you might know, don’t gobble their victims in one go, like snakes or grizzly bears. They just slurp their blood from time to time. Oh and they leave disgusting marks on their victims’ flesh. And what exactly does this have to do with us? Well now. Funny you should ask. And while we’re asking questions—where the hell have all the gators gone?



Best line of dialogue in the movie: “I ain’t dirty, Liz baby.”


What gets leached: a giant leech; a redneck; a couple of sinners; a doting husband; a couple more good ole boys; several more giant leeches.


You didn’t know this, but: Once I went hiking in the Malaysian rain forest for a couple of hours, and leeches got under my pants cuff and stuck on my legs. They were only about an inch long but they were a lot scarier than anything in this movie.


Party game: Play “Liz and Dave” and write a conversation between these two characters, using only dialogue spoken by other characters in the movie.


Did you know? Real leeches inject a thinning agent into your blood, which allows them to slurp away without having to worry about nasty clotting. Ain’t Nature grand?


Moral of the story: Don’t drink the water. (In fact, don’t even go near it.)


Somehow their careers survived: Ken Clark (Steve) went on to further glory in Desert Commandos (1967), while his career culminated in 1972’s Tarzana, the Wild Girl, starring Italian sex bomb Femi Benussi as the titular—in more ways than one—character. I will give you a dollar if you’ve ever seen that movie. Sexy/sleazy Yvette Vickers (Liz) enjoyed a supporting role alongside Allison Hayes in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), and everyone else enjoyed the display of her copious assets in the July 1959 issue of Playboy. Jan Shepard (Nan) had a small role in King Creole (1958) with Elvis Presley—wonder how the leeches compared?  Big, big Bruno VeSota (Dave) had a career that started with Brando in The Wild One (1954) and wound up years later with another biker flick, Hell’s Angels on Wheels (1967). In between he appeared in many movies such as The Wasp Woman and A Bucket of Blood (both 1959), Creature of the Walking Dead (1960), and The Wild World of Batwoman (1966). He also directed such films as Female Jungle (1956) and The Brain Eaters (1958).


BOTTOM LINE: The Dave & Liz subplot enlivens a movie that’s otherwise pretty slow. Okay for kitsch fans, but others can safely give it a miss.


NEXT TIME: It Came From Outer Space (1953)


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