Given how utterly perfect the weather was last night, it was theoretically possible to be almost anywhere and feel a little euphoric just to be outside. If you happened to be at the Bell Museum of Natural History on the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus, that feeling was likely compounded by the charm of watching a really bad movie surrounded by deep blue summer dusk and breathing in the smell of popcorn.
The Bell launched its summer sci-fi series—a roster of low-budget B-movies from the 1950s and ‘60s—last night with Attack of the Giant Leeches. I won’t say there were no young girls in attendance, but the movie attracted a decidedly young male crowd. (Or maybe it attracted their parents, lured by the promise of spending an evening outside with—for once—a willing young companion.) After all, who wouldn’t read the description of the movie on the Bell’s website—“When local moonshine-swilling trapper Lem Sawyer sees a giant creature in a swamp near his home, his story is dismissed as a tall tale—but when people start disappearing, the good-looking game warden begins an investigation that ends in terror!”—and not think ten-year-old boy. The rest of the crowd was remarkably mixed. One lucky elderly man even won the drawing for a pet leech.
The “creepy crawly” petting zoo, populated by a millipede, hissing cockroaches, and requisite leeches, proved a popular pre-movie attraction for kids and grownups alike. (There was also a stuffed piranha for good measure.) Facts learned: every millipede in the world is a vegetarian and only three types of cockroaches live in people’s houses. Who knew?
Not surprising: the trajectory of Attack of the Giant Leeches. The movie is set in a town on the edge of a massive Florida swamp and offers up every tried-and-true cliché and stereotype about humans and leeches being alike as possible. Of course, the predictable nature of B-movies is part of their charm. Just consider a few snippets of dialogue:
Sheriff Benton to the earnest (and, naturally, hunky) game warden Cal Moulton: “I’m not about to go tromping through the swamp looking for an over-growed gator.” (He does.)
Sheriff Benton foreshadowing Cal’s fool’s errand to the swamp: “That boy’s lookin’ for bad trouble and he’s gonna get it.” (Indeed.)
Cuckolded husband Dave Walker in response to his wife’s immodesty: “Someday I’m gonna give that she-cat the whopping she’s been asking for.” (He does not, though she does get eaten by one of the leeches!)
Tramp and good girl, capable game warden and backcountry fumblers drinking moonshine from jugs, a slimy and, frankly, ridiculous-looking enemy/”monster,” it’s all here in black-and-white.
Still to come his summer: The Killer Shrews (August 23), The Wasp Woman (August 30), and The Giant Gila Monster (September 6).