#23. The Leech Woman

23. The Leech Woman (1959) - Season 8, episode 802

"She’s in the zone! She’s hitting pineal glands at will! Inside the paint! Outside the paint!"

Plot:  A woman discovers the fountain of youth after visiting a lost tribe in Africa.
Famous for:  Teaching me what the pineal gland is.

"It's so upsetting to see your grandma trolling."

My favorite riff:  This is one of those rare episodes that I don't think actually has a standout riff. It's just consistently funny, pretty much from start to finish.

I love the running gag about "real Africa" versus "Hollywood Africa." And of course the scene where the secretary keeps screaming "Neil!" is always great. But if I had to pick ONE riff that always gets a laugh out of me, it would be this one right after June turns back into a young woman.  

Sometimes it's the word choice that makes all the difference.

Malla: Your youth will not last long. Do not waste it.
Mike (as Malla):  Go get yourself some nasty.

  The Leech Woman is one of those episodes that rarely ever makes it onto anyone's MST3k favorites list. And that's a shame, because this is one of those episodes that I'm constantly trying to hype up to people. It's so good! 
And the reason I think it's so good is because the movie itself is actually pretty good. I mean, you could have gone to in a theater in 1960 and watched this movie, and you probably wouldn't have wanted your money back. It's not a half-bad little revenge tale.

Combine a pretty good storyline, with a movie that just casually throws around 1950s racism and sexism, and actors who leave giant pregnant pauses in between their lines... and this is one of those movies that was just PERFECT for a show like Mystery Science Theater. They took a movie that was already good on its own, and they made it even better.

 "Gah, a woman made entirely of gravy skin."

"I guess "Malla" is Nando for "Rawhide chew."

"Wait, this is the fifties, why am I explaining things to a woman? Get in the car!"

I could rave about this episode for hours, and how good it is, but here are two things I wanted to point out that make it funnier than your typical MST3k episode.

The first is how obviously the movie bounces between actual stock footage of Africa, and then footage of a bunch of black actors just dancing around in Griffith Park. The movie doesn't even try to pretend like they're getting away with it. The transitions are SO unseamless and obvious that Mike and the Bots just have a field day laughing at how ridiculous the whole thing is.

"Paul Simon's backyard barbecues are gettin' out of hand."

"Their god is a mouth breather."

The second thing I wanted to point out about this episode is that, despite the fact that there are technical issues all over the place, and despite the fact that some of the "Africans" are clearly just white women in blackface, the lead actress (Coleen Gray) is actually pretty good in it. In fact, this is one of those rare MST3k episodes that I think actually contains a really good acting performance.  

I mean yeah, the movie is silly. And yeah, some of her old age makeup looks ridiculous on her at the end. But she basically has to play three separate distinct characters throughout the course of the movie. And that couldn't have been easy to do, especially in a throwaway little B-movie like this one. She actually pulls the whole thing off, and she actually pulls the whole thing off with dignity.

"Ewww, are we gonna see open-mouth grandma kissing?"

"So it gave her a Wonderbra too?"

Even though the movie around her is ridiculous, I like to give credit where credit is due. And I think Coleen Gray was actually pretty good in this.

Coleen Gray, the Meryl Streep of MST3k movies
(and yes that's how she actually spelled her name)

And so there you have it. An episode that hardly anyone else I know likes (or even knows), but I just absolutely love. And it gets better the more times you watch it. In fact, this is one of those episodes that could easily jump up from #23 closer to my top ten one day.

I don't know why nobody ever talks about it, because it's almost the perfect Mystery Science Theater episode.

"Look back on the wall. Did he bag the Grinch's dog?"

Other personal favorite things about this episode:  
Did I mention how much it taught me about the human endocrine system?

"They accidentally tapped his pituitary! She's a midget now!"


Back to Mario's Top 50 MST3k Episodes