“The Leech Woman” (1960)

This Universal cheapie was surprising—my guess is that feminist critics know it well. Colleen Gray is a middle-aged woman married to a younger doctor who’s got his ants in his pants because the missus is showing her age. Suffice it to say that they get their hands on a rejuvenation spice that needs to be activated by the serum from human pineal glands, which is extracted via a ring with a fancy little hook on it. Gray sacrifices her shit-heel husband first, but since the potion needs to be replenished in order for her to stay young, she quickly works her way through a handful of other victims. The movie’s interesting partly because it makes her culpable in her own predicament—she’s as repulsed by her aging as her husband is—and the scenes where her husband is belittling her actually have a sting to them. (They also carry an added layer because at 38 Gray was old, if only by Hollywood standards; it had been a no doubt fast 12 years since Nightmare Alley, where Tyrone Power had traded in a fading Joan Blondell for her.) There’s also a trip to Africa, which bears a surprising topographical resemblance to the San Gabriel Mountains, but the movie’s progressiveness stops with the feminist stuff: the natives all speak fluent ooga-booga.

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