Attack of the Giant Leeches
Attack of the Giant Leeches, from 1959, was produced by Gene Corman, Roger Corman’s older brother, and executive produced by Roger.
Sometimes nicknamed "King of the Bs" for his output of B-movies, Roger Corman is a well-known American producer and director of low-budget movies. He is legendary for how quickly and cheaply he produced his movies, both in terms of money and quality.
His film, The Little Shop of Horrors, holds the Hollywood record for the shortest professional 35mm film production time ever - 2 days & 1 night.
In his career, he produced almost 400 films and he claims he never lost money on a single one.
A running gag in Hollywood was that Corman could negotiate the production of a film on a pay phone, shoot the film in the booth, and finance it with the money in the change slot.
Corman is also well-known for the number of now-famous directors and actors who worked with him early in their careers:
Directors Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, James Cameron, and actors Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Michael McDonald, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, Robert DeNiro, David Carradine all went to the “Roger Corman Film School”.
Leo Gordon, who wrote the Leeches script, was a prolific actor and appeared in almost 200 films & TV episodes, usually as a heavy or bad guy. He also wrote another B-movie classic, The Wasp Woman.
Before becoming an actor & writer, Gordon served a stretch in San Quentin prison for armed robbery. Later Gordon appeared in the prison film Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) which, coincidentally, was filmed at San Quentin.
Many of the guards remembered Gordon, when he was regarded as a troublemaker. So they wouldn’t let Gordon enter or leave the prison with the other cast and crew members. He had to enter and exit by himself, and he was thoroughly searched every time.
Leeches director, Bernard Kowalski, had a long and impressive list of credits, primarily from TV.
He directed dozens of TV episodes of shows like Baywatch, Magnum PI, Airwolf, The Rockford Files, Perry Mason, Columbo, Knight Rider and others.
He is the also the uncle of super-producer Brian Grazer.
Dan White, playing Slim Reed tonight, ran away from home as a teen and traveled throughout the South in tent, minstrel, vaudeville and theater shows before getting into movies.
Over the years, White appeared in nearly 300 films, and made 150 television appearances, most of which were westerns.
Among his most well-known pictures were The Yearling, Touch of Evil,, Giant, Duel in the Sun, Jailhouse Rock and To Kill a Mockingbird.
He was offered the role of Sam the Bartender in the TV series Gunsmoke, but he didn't want to commit to something long-term. So he told his best friend, Glenn Strange, to apply for the job.
Strange went on to play Sam for 12 years. If you remember, Glenn Strange was Frankenstein’s monster in the Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein movie.
Ken Clark, Ranger Steve tonight, went on to stardom as beefcake in Italian Hercules & spy movies, with lots of bare chests and gunplay.
But at this point in his career, he wasn't very familiar with guns - watch where he points his pistol when he’s holding Liz after she finds the dead guy in the swamp.
Yvette Vickers, sultry Liz, got her start in TV commercials for White Rain hair products and in July 1959, she was the Playboy Playmate of the Month.
After doing a half dozen movies through the end of the 1950s, she appeared in What's the Matter with Helen? with Debbie Reynolds (1971) and Hud with Paul Newman (1963).
Both her parents were jazz musicians and, in the 1990s, Yvette, a singer on the side, released a jazz CD titled Tribute to Charlie & Maria that showcased some of her parents’ songs. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King cited her as one of his movie matinee idols.
Chubby character actor Bruno VeSota appears as Liz’s angry, shotgun-totin’ husband. Bruno had a remarkably long and impressive career acting and directing on stage, radio, and in movies and TV.
He appeared frequently in Roger Corman’s pictures, including The Wasp Woman. VeSota also had a recurring role as a bartender on the TV western Bonanza.
So the acting is hammy and the dialog is unintentionally funny, the special effects aren’t very special - try not to think of men wearing garbage bags when you finally see the leeches.
But on the plus side, Leeches does actually have a semblance of a plot and it’s a great nostalgic trip back to the campy drive-in horror movies of the 50s.