Halloween Endurance Test: Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Few people know this, but leeches don’t bleed, they bubble when shot in the water. This is just one of the many questionable “facts” I learned watching today’s film. Boasting Roger Corman as its Executive Producer, you know what you’ll be getting here. Giant leeches (a given), hillbillies, and sassy women in the vein of ‘Gator Bait.

A man is found dead in the Florida swamps. The sheriff figures a giant alligator got to him. They are living in the bayou after all. (The sheriff saying words such as “Garntee.”) Steve, the local scientist, disagrees, of course. No, he thinks they should be looking for a giant squid or an octopus.

Have you ever seen a movie where all the authority figures are always wrong? I’m used to seeing a scientist voice and fight for an unpopular theory, but never an unpopular and clearly false theory. Corman blazing cinematic trails yet again! Giant octopuses and squids? Did the man even see what he was shooting? I’m not an expert on leeches, but I don’t believe they have tentacles, or anything even remotely resembling tentacles!

It’s movie like this that made me fall in love with B-movies. Ever since that Christmas years ago when my father bought me a copy of the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Just from looking at its box I knew it was something special. How can one go back to traditional cinema when you could be watching films populated with a menagerie of giant animals? Everything just seems small after that.

Steve does seem to have some brains though. When the town doctor figures out that they could kill all the baddies by planting dynamite underwater and blowing the lake to kingdom come, environmentalist Steve is against it. Until the doctor goes maverick, and sets off some dynamite. Steve doesn’t complain so much after it’s done.

You’d think leeches would make more fearsome killers. If it wasn’t for their immobility, you wouldn’t know their victims are dead. They just drain a little blood, bit by bit, leaving the bodies in underwater, air-filled caves. Why the victims don’t just wake up and swim away rather then wait for the giant leeches to return will forever be an unsolvable, scientific mystery.

Holy good news! Thanks to the wonders of “public domain,” I can offer you the chance to view this film yourself with a clear conscience. Enjoy!

Eew! Something for the ladies… Attack of the Giant Leeches was made in the days before wetsuits, when men wore tiny swim trunks when diving in the Everglades. Corman had his sight’s on the better half of the movie-going population by having Steve’s friend Mike cross all boundaries of good taste. Mike pulls a John Ritter and accidentally flashes his scrotum onscreen! No wonder he’s always smiling! What’s he doing? Testing an emergency floatation device? Making sure he doesn’t get “the bends” (to the right)? Dammit Corman, this isn’t what I wanted stuck in my head as the movie ends!


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