Friday, October 10, 2008

The Leech Woman

The Leech Woman (1960)

The Leech Woman appealed to my Bijou imagination. My most private precious prurient interests—“Forever young! Forever deadly!” Coleen Gray stars as the faded beauty—consumed with the desire to restore her lost youth. The sad tale begins with her ambitious endocrinologist husband—when an old wise African witch offers him the secret of eternal youth.

Soon they’re in deepest darkest Africa—with the evil husband plotting to try out the secret elixir on his aging guinea pig wife. But Coleen Grey is no dummy—soon she catches on to the “fake” reconciliation. She does in her estranged husband—by doing to him what he planned to do to her!

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Coleen gets even by sucking her husband’s pineal gland dry—once you’ve done the good stuff there’s no turning back! The magic Voodoo “Nipe” plus the fluid from a man’s freshly-drained pineal gland—means wonderfully exquisitely beautiful Youth once again! It does wonders for your complexion!!!

There are problems, of course—nothing is ever easy. Further injections of the magic elixir are required—to keep the charming goodlooks and youthfulness going for nefariously vain Coleen Grey. After draining her no-good rotten-to-the-core husband dry—she does the same thing with a no-good jungle guide (John Van Dreelen) and a no-good crook (Arthur Batanides).

Cold calculating Coleen Grey gets off on “no-good” men—they’ve got the most potent pineal glands it seems. I can attest to that—some of the worst no-good rotten-to-the-core young hoodlums I knew were the same way. Usually vain hard-to-get selfish no-good rotten-to-the-core young goodlooking guys—they had the secret most succulent life-giving pineal juice for some queer reason!?!

Estelle Hemsley plays the old African witch with no fanfare—just the primal down-to-earth facts. She’s seen it all—nothing surprises her anymore. She’s like a mummified Gloria Swanson—propped up for the usual ho-hum fertility rites. The real acting is left up to Coleen Gray—who does a simply marvelous acting role as The Leech Woman. She’s got it down pat—right down to the last succulent suck. She doesn’t miss a drop—she savors each delicious slurp!!!

Even on a small budget with lots of tacky stock footage—Coleen Grey is able to portray with full-bodied mannerisms and accurate voice inflections—all the incredibly amazing phases of going through the roller-coaster of Love. Old age, middle age, and youthful foxiness—she does them all with style and panache. As the plot thickens and slowly oozes—from one succulent sexy shocking picaresque pineal gland suck-job to the next.

I find this movie extremely excruciating every time I watch it—I keep getting these simply disgusting flashbacks I’d rather not talk about. You know the kind—hints of delectable déjà vu dilettantism? It’s just awful—awfully nice…

The same with Gloria Talbot—who’s got eyes on Saturday sci-fi flick matinee-idol Grant Williams. He’s the handsome masculine star of The Monolith Monsters (1957)—truly one of the most horrifying size-queen nightmare thrillers of all time. These huge enormous things—springing up out of nowhere!!! You know what I mean?

Gloria Talbot gets taken out of circulation like all the troublesome no-good men—but in my rejuvenated imagination, Gloria doesn’t go out easy. Odd that Coleen Grey’s last name in the movie—is none other than “Talbot” as well? Coincidental? Perhaps. I’ve often thought of a re-run movie—Daughter of the Leech Woman. Sort of like Son of Frankenstein and Son of Dracula. Starring Gloria Talbot—as the skanky trampy slutty white trash hoebag harlot hussy Whore of Hormones herself. Doing what Coleen Grey did—only 10 times better…

Actually I found the trashy stock footage of African scenery to be campy and right up my alley. Lions, tigers and skanky alligators, oh my!!! Loincloths, voodoo drums, cardboard sets!!! The tackier the better—making the plot even more ridiculous than it already was. The story of my Life—Return to the Garden of Eden. Innocence—and the Fall.

Later on my secret Filmic desires—were granted when Blaxploitation flicks like Shaft and Blacula hit the screens. Opening up a whole new genre of queer Filmography—just for little Snake Pit Drive In me. “Bloodsucker!—Deadlier than Dracula! Rising From the Echoing Corridors of Hell, An Awesome Being of the Supernatural—With Satanic Power of Sheer Dread. Chained Forever to a Slavery More Vile Than Any Before Endured!!!”

But The Leech Woman had enough Africa for me back then—White Trash Sexploitation Drive In Movies were in. Blaxploitation flicks were coming around the corner—hinting at bigger even more exciting things to come. Was there no end—to the cynical Hollywood exploitation of my naïve gullible gushing youth???

Catty dialog always enlivens a cheap horror flick—like the bitchy exchange between Gloria Talbot and the rejuvenated Coleen Grey (aka Terri Hart). The new young vivacious Coleen finds Gloria’s fiancé extremely inviting—and Gloria just hates it. Thinking the old Coleen was Terri’s aunt, Gloria gets catty, saying: “I’m Sally…I guess your aunt described me to you as well?” “Yes, she did,” says Terri. “Well then, I guess she mentioned that Neil and I are engaged.” “No, she didn’t…why should she?” “Oh, I don’t know…I just thought I’d mention it.”

Catty dialog like this with its catty underlying tone & sharp-clawed subtleties—what more could a catty queen like me want? Teaching me the subtleties—of coy bitchy syntax and innuendo? In that cheap tawdry movie back then—about the Love that dares not speak its name. Precocious Perturbing Problematic Pineal Love—the Love that’s pure Shame!

I remember the only drawback in The Leech Woman—was that scene when Paul Thompson, the Nandos Warrior Chief, gives Coleen Grey her chance to pick any of the young African warriors as her choice for sacrifice. All those young handsome (uncredited) African warriors—ready to give themselves up to rejuvenate Coleen Grey. Why I wondered—why would they do that?

I remember turning green with envy & jealousy—as Coleen Grey surveyed the handsome stylishly loin-clothed young Mandingo men. While I was stuck with Danny Dumbowsky— smirking knowingly at me. He could be so rude & uncaring—guzzling his Coors six-pack. Playing hard to get in the backseat—while his older brother Dick. Smooched up front—with Doreen Schultz the cute cheerleader of BJ High.

I couldn’t help it though—cheap and cheesy movies always creeped me out just right. The more they creeped me out—the more I got turned on. I didn’t tell Donny the awful truth—but I was going through a Kafkaesque metamorphoses.

This latest Gloria Talbot incarnation—was the lecherous Leech Woman. I was by then—far beyond The Monster from Outer Space and Daughter of Dr. Jekyll. I was into the really serious stuff then—I was going through some changes. I was cynical and jaded—I was a decadent Pineal Gland Queen!!!

The Leech Woman was usually paired with—a lurid double-feature companion film like The Brides of Dracula. The Brides and Daughters of Dracula—they took up where the Master left off. I didn’t mind the lack of special effects—in these Grade-B flicks at all!!! Coleen Grey’s marvelous make-up job—helped give the best performance of her career!!! At least that’s what some astute queens and critics say…

More than anything though—was the way Coleen Grey portrayed the same desperation I felt back then. Even though I was only 16—I felt much older than that. I was aging quickly—due to the insurmountable stress of being who & what I was. I didn’t want to be a Leech Woman—but I really & truly couldn’t help myself. I tried to stay away from it—but my phone was always ringing & they’d honk their horns out front. My parents were VFW nightclub lushes—they didn’t care. As long as there wasn’t a scandal—that couldn’t be bought or covered up.

In fact, like Coleen Grey I had to keep doing it—daily injections of Pineal gland oil were the only thing keeping me going. The dreary day-to-day drudgery of being who & what I was—surely I needed something uplifting and rejuvenating to get past all that. I tried to act straight—and pass like Susan Kohner in Imitation of Life (1959). But you know how fake Douglas Sirk movies can get—and there were so many dumb Troy Donahue types driving around town.

It’s amazing I got through all those tacky Sexploitation Movie days back then—all those blood-sucking vampires and man-eating monsters from outer space. No wonder I had horrible testosterone nightmares—and severe glandular distress during the day. It would take years for my so-called brain—to catch-up with my runaway juvenile delinquent body. Thank gawd my hormones—are petering out a little bit now. Viagra is the last thing I want to take—those kind of vibes I’d rather leave behind me. True Confessions are hard enough—who needs to do the real thing all over again?

I remember Donny “The Dummy” Dumbowsky—showing off to his envious buddies. The hickies on his neck—and the ones downstairs. He had them all thinking it was Doreen Schultz doing him in—when really it was somebody else much more discrete. I remember him showing off in the YMCA—cruising the Granada bathroom. The haunting words of Old Malla whispering in my head—“You will never escape me, you are the one in my dreams of blood.”

It’s funny how none of the supposedly “classic” horror flicks really scared me bad—ones like Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man. While cheap low-budget B-movies like The Leech Woman and Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)—those were the ones that were usually very scary and full of all sorts of crazy campy libido. Why?

Looking back it seems like the cheapies were more “raw and uncooked”—more primitive and sexploitation-seductive than the classics. Bride of Frankenstein could be campy—but not really sexy like The Leech Woman. Maybe I was just more “impressionable” back then—more sensitive to the teenage urges LA was exploiting to the hilt. All I know is that Gloria Talbot was my Hollywood gay icon back then—and still is whenever I watch The Leech Woman today. That faggy frisson—does it every time.

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