Attack Of The Giant Leeches
Rated – 12 (UK)
Copyright – AIP 1959
Steve Benton – Our muscled, hairy hero loves tea and nature, but hates explosives.
Nan Grayson – Steve’s partner. Curiously, she refers to him constantly as Steve rather than ‘honey’ or ‘darling’. That’s love for you...
Doc Grayson – The walking, talking, exposition machine. Wherever there is science to be explained, he is there.
Liz & Cal ‘The Lovers’ – Yvette Vickers! And some guy! She has the worst taste in men. He is an example of that bad taste. Both get sucked.
Dave Walker – Okay, he’s fat, but he’s a very peculiar fat. His stomach juts out like he’s hiding someone underneath a long raincoat. Another example of Liz’s bad taste. Commits suicide by hanging from the strongest light fixture known to mankind.
Sheriff Kovis – Angry, angry old man. He’s the first b-movie sheriff I’ve seen in a long time not to be drinking Jack Daniels, so perhaps it’s the cold turkey that’s made him surly.
Moonshine Man – Our opening sacrificial lamb. Sucked to death.
Two hic(k) trappers – Moonshine fiends and sucker fodder.
Mike – Steve’s friend. He appears towards the end. The actor playing him just could not stop smiling throughout his brief performance. It’s quite sweet to see how clearly elated he was to be in a film. Shame it had to be this one.
Here we go again with another film about dank swamps, the word ‘Atomic’ and all-American men in high trousers. Yes, it’s another film about Cold War paranoia. Please stop me if you’ve heard this one before; and yes I’m aware that I started my review for Bride of the Monster in exactly the same fashion. When you review any gigantism monster movie from this period, you need a certain degree of pattern recognition.
So, Attack of the Giant Leeches then. No quibbles with the title, it tells you everything you need to know in a nutshell. I do have a quick question though; a small niggle to run by the writers here. I’m absolutely fine about setting a movie in a swamp. And I’m completely willing to believe that atomic radiation can cause extreme gigantism. I’m no scientist, but my brain has been warped by years of kaiju to believe otherwise. Leeches? Let’s imagine, shall we, some brief dialogue between the screenplayer and the producer (for the purpose of this hypothetical conversation they shall be referred as Murray and Scrotum.)
Murray: I have a great idea for a film set in New York about a giant crocodile.
Scrotum: I like it. But I want to set the film into a swamp. And I want to change the creature.
Murray: That’s fine. We can use alligators instead of crocodiles. They’re still deadly.
Scrotum: No, no. I don’t want an alligator. I want… leeches.
Murray: We don’t have to use leeches. What about giant swamp snakes?
Scrotum: I still like leeches.
Murray: We could have giant mosquitoes… that drain the very blood from you.
Scrotum: Goddammit! I don’t want mosquitoes, ‘gators or snakes. Just give me the goddamn leeches!
So, we’re stuck with them then. Swamps are filled with all manner of dangerous things even when they are normal sized, but instead we have super-sized leeches. Of course, we don’t really have super-sized leeches. We have men in plastic suits and stock footage of squids.
Anyway, to the plot. The premise of this film is really rather simple, much like many of the characters. Steve is the Warden of a swamp trying to protect it from rootin’, tootin’ illegal trappers. Steve loves the wildlife, tea and his partner Nan in that order. Dave Walker is the cuckolded husband to Liz, who makes the same noises when underneath giant leeches that she does when she’s underneath her lover Cal. You’ll wonder how Liz ended up married to a guy like Dave, but will all become clear. On the fringes are the illegal trappers, one of whom comes across one of the blood-sucking creatures and shoots at it before escaping. After relaying his fears to the locals in the bar, he goes back into the swamp and ends up dead, discovered by Liz with his skin broken by sucker marks and drained of blood. Serves him right, says I.
This strange community are baffled and a brief search of the area turns up nothing untoward. Obviously unconcerned and unaffected by the trauma of finding a dead man sans his sticky red macadam, Liz, and her lover Cal, go out for some discreet loving (they have the option of the back seat of a car, but decide to get down and dirty on the banks of the swamp) and are cornered by Dave and his gun. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Dave. He looks like Stan Laurel, he’s useless and he’s married to a beautiful woman who hates him, whilst all the locals laugh behind his back at her constant adultery. If you’re wondering how he ended up marrying her, Liz explains all. Her past history of relationships includes domestic abuse and Cal himself turns out to be a coward, pleading with Dave and insisting that he was innocent in the affair. Hell, he even tries that old line ‘This isn’t what it looks like.’ Liz was laying on top of him with her tongue down his throat. Even a man as dense as Dave (and boy is he dense mentally and physically) isn’t going to buy that one, Cal.
What I'm saying is: she doesn't make good choices.
Dave forces them both into the swamp, where the lovers are swiftly captured by the leeches. Waddling to get help from the sceptical locals, he is charged with their murder and hangs himself (somehow) in his cell. So endeth the long, sorry career of Dave.
Two more moonshine quaffing trappers are captured, before Steve starts taking the idea seriously that something unnatural might be down in the water. He still resolutely argues against using explosives, even when the Doc counter-argues convincingly that all the other animals in the swamp have disappeared and that the damage to the local wildlife would be negligible, particularly when it isn't there anymore. Really, it’s just a series of silly scenes to try and portray our meat-axe of a hero as someone who is sensitive and loves his animals. As the captured foursome languish in the air-pocket of a cave, being feasted upon by men in plastic suits, Steve decides to call in the big guns. Yes, that’s right. He gets some dogs.
Meanwhile, Doc and Nan decide they’ve had enough of his stupidity. Doc takes some dynamite out into the lake and drops it. How does the fire stay lit on the fuse? I have no idea. The dynamite brings three male bodies to the surface. They have all been drained of blood and had died only hours before the explosion. Steve rewards the Doc’s acumen by placing him under arrest, something that goes down very well with Nan as you can imagine. During this scene, Steve gives us some cock-and-bull story about learning to dive after stealing aqualungs from the Italian Navy… I have no idea what’s going on, the sound quality is so poor, but something about Steve’s anecdote makes the witless characters laugh, even though one of them is under arrest and the other has just seen her father arrested by her lover.
Steve gets kitted out in his best trunks with Mike, a man who looks like he would smile through his mother’s funeral. Whilst our two all-American men wrestle with other men in plastic suits, Doc and Nan helpfully explain the plot in one of those wonderfully convenient pieces of dialogue where the characters finish each other’s sentences and everything gets explained at once. Basically, it’s blamed on atomic radiation from nearby rocket launches at Cape Canaveral. Which begs the question, why didn’t the alligators become gigantic? Why didn’t the snakes become gigantic? Why didn’t the mosquitoes become gigantic?
WHY WAS IT JUST THE LEECHES, YOU BASTARDS?
Liz finally breathes her last and falls out of the lair, floating to the surface. Steve and Mike, being heroes, manage to kill one of the leeches using a combination of Mike’s knife and Steve’s harpoon gun which looks like an ordinary gun with two long pieces of metal glued to either end of the barrel. Finally convinced to blow up the lake with explosives, Steve personally sinks the detonator (after having to lift it up again because some witless person forgot about continuity.) The explosion is large enough to have probably killed them as they stood by the swamp shore but that wouldn’t make for a very happy ending would it? No, they survive… and what is this? As they walk away, we see bubbling? A lone giant leech has survived as well!? The End. Or is it?
Well, they didn’t make Attack of the Giant Leeches II, or Attack of the Last Remaining Giant Leech That We Forgot About. So we have to assume it either dies of a broken heart through loneliness, or it goes on to chomp its way through the rest of the hicks as they congratulate themselves. I know which hypothesis I prefer.
Attack of the Giant Leeches is a strange film for me; strange as in my reaction to it. For all my slamming of the titular creatures and their obvious human-like form, I do like the premise of giant leeches slowly draining the blood from their prey whilst keeping them alive for as long as possible. There’s something insidious, something more chilling and creepy about this kind of monster over a giant alligator chomping people in half or a giant snake swallowing up rednecks like baby mice. In theory then, this should’ve been a really unsettling, really atmospheric little film.
And yet, something was missing. I can’t put my finger on it, but it just didn’t grab me. Maybe it was the sound and picture quality, which makes dialogue difficult to understand from certain characters and renders some scenes impenetrable to look at. Maybe it was the brevity of the film (it clocks in at 62 minutes.) Perhaps it was the fact that none of the characters were particularly easy to identify with, and so when they were captured and killed you just didn’t care about their suffering. This would be fine if it were a production by someone like Ed Wood, where mistakes and stock footage of various things are par for the course, but I expected more from this, because of the potential for horror from the monsters in question. I don’t want to completely dissuade people from checking it out. The shortness of the film means that it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome and it does feature the lovely Yvette Vickers in a state of partial undress for large portions of it. The final verdict though – disappointing for me, but you might not think so. Two slimes for effort, but not enough there to warrant any more from me.
Things I Learned From This Movie:
-Hell hath no fury like a fat man scorned.
-When you die, your body instinctively rolls over. This may be why hospitals and hotels tuck you in so tightly at night.
-Fire can be waterproofed.
-Do not cut corners when it comes to your sound and lighting engineers.
-Dynamite only explodes when the camera is watching.
-In contrast to what The Abominable Dr Phibes would have us believe, bodies drained of blood look no different to how they do normally.
-Leeches in Florida will only drink moonshine-addled blood. Put down that jug if you want to live.
Stuff To Watch Out For:
1min – Why do these films always save the most stirring music for the credits? Oh no! The casting director! Augh!
7mins – You’re married? Well, he doesn’t have money. Or looks. Or personality. Give us a clue, here.
9mins – Was that scream a reaction to their acting?
12mins – Must. Not. Say… oh, I can’t help it! He’s gonna need a bigger boat…
25mins – What is he firing at? More to the point, where is he pulling all these shells from?
36mins – Ah, men in plastic suits. You just can’t beat men in plastic suits.
40mins – Split up. Of course. Good things always come to those who split up into groups.
46mins – Er… the flame? The water? Am I just being really dumb?
49mins – Doc’s turning into Columbo before our very eyes.
57mins – It may be a wet dress but I think it qualifies. RANDOM GRATUITOUS BREAST SHOT!
60mins – Keep an eye on this detonator plunger. First it’s up, then it’s down and the actor has to lift it up again.