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The Leech Woman

The Leech Woman(1960)

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Remind Me

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When fifty-year-old June Talbot realizes that her endocrinologist husband Paul no longer finds her attractive, she turns to alcohol for solace. In his office, after they argue bitterly, she finally agrees to divorce him. On her way out, she meets Malla, an elderly African woman who frightens June by promising her that Paul will die in order to give her life. Malla then enters Paul's office, where she reveals to Paul, who considers her great old age "creepy," that as a child she was stolen from the Nandos tribe and sold into slavery. Before dying, Malla's mother gave her a secret powder, called nipé, which "slows the approach of death." Although Paul doubts Malla's claim, she demonstrates the powder's power in return for enough money to return to her tribe. Meanwhile, at June's home, her friend and lawyer, Neil Foster, tries to persuade her to stop drinking, but she remains inconsolable until Paul returns, eager for the two of them to travel to Africa together. Once in Africa, Paul manages to persuade guide Bertram Garvay to help them track down Malla, who passed through the region only days earlier. They enter the jungle with three native assistants, barely escaping several dangerous wild animals. At camp that night, Paul rebuffs June, prompting her to realize that he has invited her along only in order to experiment on her. After Paul admits that he wants her to be "young and beautiful again," June runs into the jungle, where she is cornered by a leopard. Bertram rescues her but soon spots a group of vultures circling nearby. The whole group treks out to investigate, and come upon the litter that Bernard had earlier seen carrying Malla into the jungle. It is overturned, surrounded by the murdered bodies of the expedition party. The native assistants flee in terror, after which the Nandos surround and capture Paul, June and Bertram. They are led to a hut in the tribe's village, and soon Malla, a revered tribal leader who has foreseen Paul's greedy pursuit, visits. She explains the source of the nipé, an orchid that grows only in Africa, and agrees to allow them to witness her transformation into a young woman. Paul promises to pay for the priviledge of watching, not realizing that Malla plans to kill them after revealing her tribe's secrets. As the ritual begins, Malla explains that while elderly men are respected, old women are pitied and neglected, but this ceremony allows women one last moment of esteem before death. June watches in horror as a tribesman is drugged, his cerebellum pierced by a priest brandishing a ring with a sharp hook. The "pineal hormone" taken from his brain stem is mixed with the nipé, which Malla then drinks. She is immediately transformed into a lovely young woman, who announces to the foreigners that they may be granted any wish on this, their final evening. Paul insists that June be made young again, then whispers to June that he and Bertram will use the diversion as a chance to escape. Realizing that he means to leave her behind, June chooses Paul as the sacrificial male. While Paul is drugged and killed, Bertram, on the pretense of gathering gifts for Malla, smuggles dynamite out of their tent. June is then transformed into a younger, irresistibly lovely version of herself, but Malla warns her that the youth will not last. Bertram then detonates the explosives, escaping with June during the ensuing chaos. In the jungle, Bertram professes his love and reveals that he has stolen the nipé in order to keep June young forever. In the morning, June awakens to find herself dramatically aged, and although she begs Bertram for help, he pushes her away in horror and flees into the jungle. He stumbles into quicksand, and June offers to rescue him in exchange for the nipé. After June pulls him to safety, however, she kills him and uses his hormone to transform herself again. She returns to her hometown, where Neil has become engaged to Paul's nurse, Sally Howards. June introduces herself as "June's niece, Terry Hart," and Sally notes that Neil is extremely attracted to her. Neil drives "Terry" home and, once inside, cannot resist kissing her. She feels herself growing old again, however, and urges him to leave. Later, June arrives at Neil's office, so aged that he barely recognizes her, and asks him to return all her expensive jewelry to her. On the street outside his office, June's diamonds attract the attention of thief Jerry Randall, who attempts to seduce her. June allows Jerry to drive her to a remote area, where she kills him and converts herself back into "Terry." She then invites Neil over to her house, but Sally learns about the date and arrives first. When Sally pulls out a gun, hoping to force "Terry" to leave town, June kills her and withholds her serum for later use. Neil then arrives, and though June is thrilled by his marriage proposal, she is forced to refuse him. Just then, a police detective arrives, looking for June, whose card they discovered in Jerry's pocket. Noting June's diamonds on "Terry's" neck, they search the apartment and soon uncover Sally's body. June raves that she had no choice but to kill Sally, and then, feeling herself becoming old again, flees into her bedroom. There, she mixes a potion with Sally's serum, but when it does not work, realizes in dismay that she has killed Sally without cause. As the police break into the room, June jumps from the window to her death, her body immediately wasting away into skeletal form.