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Attack of the Giant Leeches

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Few films exemplify the camp and glory of Hollywood's sci-fi heyday better than "Attack of the Giant Leeches" (1959). Set in the Florida Everglades, the story features a pair of oversized parasites that drag unlucky swamp visitors into their hidden cave. Local authorities argue over whether the disappearances are due to gators or other, more sinister causes. It's up to handsome game warden Steve Benton, his girlfriend Nan Grayson and her dad, Doc, to find out.

Fiction provides us with a platform for expressing collective fears, and in the middle of the 20th Century, Americans struggled with the implications of atomic technology and radiation. In sci-fi, this era saw the persistent motif of radiation-induced mutations of relatively benign entities such as ants, crabs, grasshoppers and even nice young women into oversized, uncontrollable destroyers of human health and happiness. For example, the films "Them" (1954), "Attack of the Crab Monsters" (1957), "The Beginning of the End" (1957) and "Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman" (1958) are all based on this premise. On the other hand, some filmmakers decided to take the transformation in the other direction, as with "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957) that inspired the Lili Tomlin vehicle, "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" two decades later.

The Science

Don Feener

Don FeenerBiologist Don Feener of the University of Utah discusses leeches and the film “Attack of the Giant Leeches.”


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Don Feener

Biological Scientist

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