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The Leech Woman (1960) | Staying young forever comes at a deadly price in the Universal B-movie classic

The Leech Woman (1960)

Old women always give me the creeps!
When US endocrinologist Dr Paul Talbot (Phillip Terry) encounters 152-year-old Malla (Estelle Hemsley), he discovers she may hold the key to eternal youth. Accompanied by his alcoholic wife June (Nightmare Alley‘s Coleen Gray), Talbot takes Malla back to her African tribe, the Nandos, where she transforms back into her youthful self (To Kill A Mockingbird‘s Kim Hamilton) with the help of a ring filled with a miraculous elixir. However, there’s a deadly price to be paid: as the ring’s secret ingredient is secretion of the male pineal gland that can only be obtained by killing its host.

On learning that she is to be the next test subject, June kills her husband, steals the ring and heads back to the US under the guise of her own niece Terry Hart. But settling into her double life, June/Terry discovers she must kill and kill again to retain her beauty. But one of her victims proves her undoing when tries to win the affections of her lawyer Neil (Grant Williams aka The Incredible Shrinking Man)…

The Leech Woman (1960)

‘She drained men of their loves and lives’
Produced as a second feature to the US release of Hammer’s The Brides of Dracula, 1960s The Leech Woman is curious entry in Universal’s classic horror cycle. Helmed by screenwriter Edward Dein (who worked on the 1940s Tom Conway Falcon movies) it’s a strange brew of jungle adventure (cue stock footage of African wildlife and tribal dances), marriage meltdown soap drama and sci-fi fantasy.

While not exactly a spoof, the film doesn’t play it entirely straight, and this is evident from the outset as Coleen Gray and Phillip Terry trade acidic insults as bitter couple June and Paul Talbot in the film’s first act, which contains all of the film’s best dialogue, including: ‘I can’t reach you without crawling into a bottle’ and ‘As I doctor I resent the word butchering as much as I resent looking at you!’ Of course, being the first husband of Joan Crawford, Terry probably had a lot of material to use for these hilarious scenes.

And as a pertinent reminder of Universal’s horror pedigree, there’s some in-joke references to 1941’s The Wolf Man and 1942’s The Mummy’s Tomb that will tickle the fancy of classic horror fans, while 1950s scream queen Gloria Talbott is super fiery as Gray’s love rival, Sally.

The Leech Woman (1960)

‘I’ll show you! I’ll becoming beautiful again!’
With vanity, Gerascophobia (the fear of growing old), and modern society’s obsession with halting the aging process at the heart of the thriller, the most revealing line of the film: ‘There’s only one trouble with running away – you always meet yourself when you get there’. Which is what eventually happens to June when, cornered by the police after killing Sally, decides to leap to her death rather than face the horror of seeing herself age and shrivel up (courtesy of make-up legend Bud Westmore’s box of tricks). However, she does get to take her swan dive in a chic silver lamé culottes-styled evening dress creation by Bill Thomas (the same costume designer who also did all the fab gowns in Douglas Sirk’s big-budget soapy 1950s melodramas).

This is campy B-movie fun with an acid tongue and one important lesson: never try to steal Nandos’ secret recipe for their delicious chicken marinade.

The Screenbound Pictures DVD release features a pristine print of the black and white horror, with Dolby Digital mono sound.

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Ninjas vs Monsters (2013) | Universal’s classic monsters have nothing to fear from these amateurs

Ninjas Vs Monsters (2013)

The world’s greatest monsters have just met their match…
Hot on the heels of taking down a nest of vampires, a group of suburban American Ninja heroes take on Dracula, the Werewolf, the Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster and a coven of witches using their newly acquired supernatural powers. Let the games begin…

Ninjas Vs Monsters (2013)

‘It’s a joke and you’re the punchline’
Remember that scene in Disney’s Bambi where Mrs Rabbit asks Thumper what his father said about being impolite and Thumper replies: ‘If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all’? Well that’s how I feel about Ninjas vs Monsters.

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I’m sorry, but this really is just a ‘home’ movie featuring a bunch of friends larking about like 10-year-olds play-acting an episode of Power Rangers. How and why Eduardo Sanchez, the director of the DIY cult hit The Blair Witch Project and the excellent Lovely Molly, put his name to this amateurish effort is anyone’s guest. And did you know it’s the final film in a ‘trilogy’ that began with something called Zombie Contagion (aka Ninjas vs Zombies)?

Ninjas Vs Monsters (2013)

I’m afraid to admit, but I turned off after 20minutes. I just couldn’t handle the overacting, the terrible dialogue and the poor sound (though the makeup and sfx are actually better than you’d expect). Then I got to thinking about all the other films that have attempted to bring Universal’s classic monsters together. And looking down the list, they’re all pretty hit and miss. For me, you can’t beat House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and (yes!) Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). But what do you think?

Assignment Terror (1970)Assignment Terror (1970). Paul Naschy’s werewolf defeats an alien plot to use a vampire, a mummy and Frankenstein’s monster to take over the world. Michael Rennie’s also in this weird Euro trip, which I loved as a kid.

 

 

Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971)Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971). J Carrol Naish’s mad scientist revives his ancestor’s creation with the help of his mute assistant (the original Wolfman, Lon Chaney Jr), Dracula – and Forest J Ackerman!

 

The Monster SquadThe Monster Squad (1987). A group of monster kids save their hometown from Dracula and his army of monsters that include The Mummy, The Gill-Man, The Wolf Man and the Frankenstein Monster (all re-imagined by Stan Winston). Now this cult classic showed its worth when Lionsgate’s 2009 Blu-ray sold out in no time. There’s even a remake in the works. Nuff said!

 

House of Frankenstein (1997)House of Frankenstein (1997). Adrian Pasdar’s LA detective battles Greg Wise’s vampire and the Frankenstein monster while trying to save his werewolf girlfriend (Teri Polo) in this so-so TV movie.

 

Van HelsingVan Helsing (2004) Hugh Jackman’s vigilante monster hunter joins forces with Kate Beckinsale to take down Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in Stephen Sommers’ tongue-in-cheek blockbuster which filmgoers loved, but critics hated. I so wanted this to work out!

 

House of the Wolf Man

 

House of the Wolf Man (2009) Five strangers discover Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster and Lon Chaney Jr’s grandson (Ron Chaney) hiding out in an old castle that they’re in line to inherit.

THE LEFT FILMS RELEASE
The UK Blu-ray of Ninjas vs Monsters includes 2010’s Ninjas Vs Vampires, the second film in the trilogy (urgh!). Left Film’s Blu-ray and DVD releases also include commentaries with director Justin Timpane and co-producer Michael Dougherty, and comedy Trekoff commentary; auditions, deleted scenes, funny (its not, actually) alternative ending, a tribute to Brian Anderson (who did the visual effects), trailers and the Until We Drop Down Dead music video.

Check out the official website: NinjasVs.com

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