THE LEECH WOMAN
I know nothing about David Duncans personal life or views. He turned out some screenplays for some fairly solid genre films during this period (see below). It is however fun to speculate as The Leech Woman reads as something highly personal, the work of someone caught in a not terribly happy marriage. Certainly, themes of disharmony in marriage and wives who had lapsed into alcoholism or were desperate to retain their looks turned up in several other genre films of this period see also Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) and The Wasp Woman (1959). The opening scenes contain some rather funny dialogue in the embittered bickering between scientist Phillip Terry and wife Coleen Gray, the upshot of which he seems to be that she has lapsed into alcoholism and become bitter because he no longer desires her due to her having gotten old he even comes out with lines like old women give me the creeps. There is a good deal of what today reads as rather sexist talk about how Coleen Gray has lost her worth because she has lost her beauty. Her arc throughout the film goes from a woman who has lapsed into alcohol because she has become middle-aged and her husband no longer desires her, to she gleefully taking revenge by nominating him as the party whose pineal has to be selected for the rejuvenation process to then posing as her younger niece, seducing lawyer Grant Williams away from his fiancee and predatorily killing men for their pineal glands to keep herself young. To say that someone in the conception of the film might have had a few unresolved issues with women could well be an understatement.
The Leech Woman works okay as a horror film. There is a trip to Africa that consists of some obvious backlot sets and stock footage of animals, which was fairly standard for the era. The makeup job that turns Coleen Gray into a leathery old woman is passably convincing. The actual transformation effect is a simple stage magicians sleight of hand where the old woman is covered by a cloud of smoke, which clears to reveal the younger one sitting in her place. It should be noted that when Coleen Gray undertakes the rejuvenation process and emerges from the smoke cloud, her bedraggled middle-age self has magically undergone the application of makeup.
Director Edward Dein had begun in the industry as a screenwriter where he had written a number of Westerns. He had also written several horror films, including additional dialogue for the Val Lewton film The Leopard Man (1943) and the screenplays for Calling Dr Death (1943), Jungle Woman (1944), The Soul of a Monster (1944) and The Cat Creeps (1946). He made seven films as director, including two co-directed in Spain. His only other horror outing as director was the vampire Western Curse of the Undead (1959).
David Duncan was also a regular genre writer with the screenplays for the English-language version of Rodan the Flying Monster (1956) and the original screenplays for The Black Scorpion (1957), The Monster That Challenged the World (1957), Monster on the Campus (1958), The Thing That Couldnt Die (1958), The Time Machine (1960) and Fantastic Voyage (1966).