ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES [1959] [HCF REWIND]

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HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still cannot forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word.  So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore…. our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection.

 

HCF REWIND NO.74. ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES AKA THE GIANT LEECHES [1959]

AVAILABLE ON DVD

RUNNING TIME: 63 mins

 


 While poaching in the Florida Everglades, Lem Sawyer fires five shots into a giant leechlike creature,  but everyone just thinks he’s drunk until State Game Warden Steven Benton finds Lem’s body, his face covered with marks like those that would be made by the tentacles of a giant squid or octopus.  For the next two days, Steve takes his girlfriend, Nan Greyson, and a rowboat, and they go searching the back channels of the swamp, but to no avail.  Meanwhile the owner of the local store Dave Walker has to contend with his slutty wife Liz.  After one of their usual rows, Dave leaves the store to make a grocery delivery and Liz sneaks out with her current paramour, Dave’s best friend Cal Moulton.  Liz and Cal end up out in the swamps where they are found in each other’s arms by Liz’s husband and his double-barrelled shotgun, but of course Dave is not the only menace out there…..

I suppose it really depends on what types of films you like. Attack Of The Giant Leeches is pure B-movie trash with laughable monsters, shoddy acting and crappy dialogue, and I’m not going to say it’s a good film, but….well, the premise of giant leeches killing off folk in the Florida Everglades is certainly appealing to me, so if you’re an undemanding monster movie fan you should get some enjoyment out of it, plus the film does have other pleasures even if they’re mostly more amusing than actually good.  It was one of several films produced by Gene Corman, the brother of B-movie king Roger Corman, though his productions tended not to have the quality of those of his brother’s.  Filmed on location in Florida, it was, typically, made quickly and cheaply, with the giant leeches being men in huge black plastic sacks with fake ‘suckers’ on.  It was a sure-fire hit at drive-in theatres and was subsequently re-released under the titles Attack of the Blood Leeches, The Giant Leeches and She Demons of the Swamp, while in the UK, accompanied of course by the obligatory ‘X’ certificate, it was called Demons of the Swamp.  A straight to DVD remake was made in 2008 and is perhaps a little better though not as much fun.

It opens with a drunk hillbilly shooting one of the leeches five times, than, rather than running, he just casually has another swig from his jug of moonshine.  This is one of those movies where people behave like idiots throughout.  The ‘hero’, State Game Warden Steve, brings his girlfriend out whilst looking for what is thought to be either poachers [so dangerous men with guns then] or alligators, while other idiots go out searching for vicious alligators either in a tiny rowing boat and poke around in the water with sticks, or just march through the swamp in boots.  We are also supposed to believe that a giant leech can locate and kill someone in revenge for that person killing one of their number.  The first half is actually less concerned with the giant leeches and more about trampy Liz, who is introduced walking into a room full of sweaty men in a negligee and brushing her teeth. Presumably all that foamy toothpaste dribbling from her mouth is supposed to be sexy. Actually actress Yvette Vickers is rather sexy in a tarty way and she is quite a memorable Bad Girl [as she was in some other films too] but of course has to pay for her ways in a scene which has a surprising sense of realism about it, where her bald, fat husband [no surprise there] finds her with a boyfriend and forces them into the swamp with a gun.

After this, too much of the film consists of people looking for the monsters, but the location does give it an authentic atmosphere and, though the creatures just look plain funny, the scenes of their prisoners trapped in an underwater cave, half-comatose, while the slurping menaces prepare to suck more of their blood, are actually genuinely horrific.  The fear and agony of the victims, especially poor Liz, is transmitted very well and even the acting is quite good here though elsewhere it’s as poor as you would expect. Their lavatorial noises are quite chilling and almost atone for their stupid appearance, and actually the film avoids showing them too much anyway.  Another rather macabre scene has dead bodies floating to the top of the water.  Director Bernard L. Kowalski certainly shows a knack for this kind of thing, though thisis  only one of two films of this kind that he made, the other being Night Of The Blood Beast.

The film climaxes with some reasonable underwater action [which adds to the The Creature From The Black Lagoon feel] and even throws in a possible explanation for the giant leeches.  Of course, it’s the fault of those pesky atomic rocket tests at Cape Canaveral!  Overall there’s not quite enough action to satisfy even the brief running time but the film certainly isn’t boring and benefits from a sometimes evocative score by Alexander Laszlo, even though it’s actually recycled from Night Of The Blood Beast.  I should mention that the print of the UK DVD is very poor and this seems to be the case with most versions of this film, but it’s generally available at bargain bin prices so I doubt many will complain! You’ll probably laugh at the film’s badness but you’ll also be entertained [which is why I’m rating it a little higher than I probably should].  As long as you like this kind of film of course.  Anyone else need not really apply.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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About Dr Lenera 1988 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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