Attack of the Giant Leeches

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Attack of the Giant Leeches
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBernard L. Kowalski
Screenplay byLeo Gordon
Produced byGene Corman
CinematographyJohn M. Nickolaus Jr.
Edited byCarlo Lodato
Music byAlexander Laszlo
Balboa Productions
Distributed byAmerican International Pictures
Release date
  • October 1959 (1959-10) (US)
Running time
62 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$70,000 (estimated)[1]
The full film

Attack of the Giant Leeches (originally to be called The Giant Leeches) is an independently made, 1959 black-and-white science fiction-horror film, produced by Gene Corman and directed by Bernard L. Kowalski. It stars Ken Clark, Yvette Vickers, Bruno VeSota and Jan Shepard. The screenplay was written by Leo Gordon. The film was released by American International Pictures on a double bill with A Bucket of Blood. Later, in some areas in 1960, Leeches played on a double bill with the Roger Corman film House of Usher.

Attack of the Giant Leeches was one of a spate of "creature features" produced during the 1950s in response to Cold War fears; a character in the film speculates that the leeches have been mutated to giant size by atomic radiation from nearby Cape Canaveral.


In the Florida Everglades, a pair of larger-than-human, intelligent leeches live in an underwater cave. They begin dragging locals down to their cave, where they slowly feed on them, draining their victims of blood. Two of the first victims of the leeches are local vixen Liz Walker (Vickers), who has been cheating on her husband (Bruno VeSota), and Liz's latest paramour. Game warden Steve Benton (Clark) sets out to investigate their disappearance. Aided by his girlfriend, Nan Grayson (Sheppard), and her father, Doc Grayson, Benton discovers the leeches' underwater cavern. The creatures are destroyed when Steve, Doc and several state troopers blow up their underwater cavern using dynamite. However, in the film's closing moments the leeches' distinctive sucking sounds are heard, suggesting they may still be alive.



The film was shot over eight days, including outdoor sequences at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. During filming, Gene Corman came down with pneumonia and wound up in the hospital.[1]

Actress Yvette Vickers had appeared as the Playmate centerfold in the July 1959 issue of Playboy magazine, several months prior to the film's release.

Producers Roger and Gene Corman begged special effects artist Paul Blaisdell to create the leech costumes for the film, but Blaisdell said the effects budget was so minute, it wouldn't have even covered the cost of the materials he would need to make the creature suits. The costumes were eventually designed by actor Ed Nelson and Gene Corman's wife, each contributing ideas. Some reference sources say the monster suits were constructed from black raincoats that were stitched together, while others say black plastic garbage bags were used.[2]

Attack of the Giant Leeches is now in the public domain; its copyright was never renewed.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Attack of the Giant Leeches holds a 70% approval rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 10 reviews; the average rating is 5.06/10.[4] Film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film 1.5 out of 4 stars, calling it a "ludicrous hybrid of white trash and monster genres".[5] Other retrospective reviews either regret the lack of scenes showing the monsters (although an expected lack in B movies of the genre)[6] or find them "ridiculous-looking".[7]

A review of the film in AllMovie described it as "uneven at best but the swamp locations, filmed at Pasadena's Arboretum of Tarzan fame, are certainly picturesque and the cave sequence, photographed, according to co-star Yvette Vickers, at the old Charlie Chaplin Studios, at least somewhat creepy," adding that the leeches are "stunt divers wearing what appears to be small ponchos with tentacles." [8] Also writing for AllMovie, critic Cavett Binion described the film as an "hysterical drive-in favorite [that] pits a community of swamp-dwelling yokels against the silliest-looking monsters since the shag-rug aliens of The Creeping Terror", but added that it is "hard to be too critical of this early film from [...] Kowalski, since executive producer Roger Corman allocated a budget for this production that would hardly cover the catering bill on a major studio film -- even in 1960!"[9]


A remake of the film, directed by Brett Kelly and written by Jeff O'Brien, was released on July 7, 2008.[10]

A stage adaptation of the original was performed at The Village Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia in February 2020.[11]


In July 1992, Attack of the Giant Leeches was featured as a fourth-season episode of the film-mocking television series Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was also featured on the nationally syndicated horror host television show Cinema Insomnia,[12] and in the second episode of season 5 of Shilling Shockers, a New England–based television show hosted by the witch Penny Dreadful XIII.[13]

Home media[edit]

Being in the public domain, Attack of the Giant Leeches has received numerous bargain bin DVD releases.[14] The MST3K version of the film was released on October 26, 2004, by Rhino Home Video as part of a box set, The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Volume 6.[15] Cheapskate Theater released an HD download of the film on June 7, 2016, featuring a new introduction by Toby Radloff and Radloff outtakes and bloopers.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mark McGee, Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures, McFarland, 1996 p148
  2. ^ Palmer, Randy (2009). Paul Blaisdell, Monster Maker: A Biography of the B Movie Makeup and Special Effects Artist. McFarland & Company. p. 187. ISBN 978-0786440993.
  3. ^ No record in 1986 or 1987
  4. ^ "Attack of the Giant Leeches (1960) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  5. ^ Leonard Maltin; Spencer Green; Rob Edelman (January 2010). Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide. Plume. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-452-29577-3.
  6. ^ "Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) Review | BasementRejectsBasementRejects". 2021-09-23. Retrieved 2023-03-29.
  7. ^ "Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) - Review | Sci-Fi Movie Page". Retrieved 2023-03-29.
  8. ^ Wollstein, Hans J. "Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)". AllMovie. Netaktion, LLC. Retrieved 2023-12-10.
  9. ^ Binion, Cavett. "Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)". AllMovie. Netaktion, LLC. Retrieved 2023-12-10.
  10. ^ "Attack of the Giant Leeches (2008) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Attack of the Giant Leeches (2020) stage production - Village Theatre". Village Village Comedy. Archived from the original on 12 February 2020. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  12. ^ "Cinema Insomnia, with your Horror Host, Mister Lobo! - SHOW INFORMATION". Archived from the original on March 28, 2010. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  13. ^ Archived from the original on 2 February 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2011. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^[dead link]
  15. ^ "Rhino DVDS".
  16. ^ "Watch Cheapskate Theater Presents: Attack of the Giant Leeches (Hosted by Toby Radloff) Online | Vimeo on Demand on Vimeo". Archived from the original on 2016-08-10. Retrieved 2016-06-12.

External links[edit]