Sunday, October 26, 2008


Philip Terry is an endocrinologist who has been experimenting with ways to keep his female patients looking young. His wife, Coleen Gray, who is several years older than he, has taken to moping and drinking because he is unhappy with her looks, so they're on the verge of divorce when a elderly patient of Terry's (Estelle Hemsley), who claims to be 140 years old, gives him a substance from her native African tribe which can bring back youth. Unfortunately, there is a second secret ingredient which she won't reveal, so Terry and Gray get a guide (John Van Dreelan) to take them into darkest Africa to find the tribe. It turns out that the substance, a powder from a rare orchid, has to be mixed with a secretion from a man's pineal gland, and that involves killing the man. Gray kills Terry (and eventually Van Dreelan), turns young, and gets back to the U.S., posing as her own young niece, where she gets the hots for her young lawyer (Grant Williams). Two problems: the continual need to kill men to stay young, and Williams' pissed-off fiancée (Gloria Talbott) who soon comes after Gray with a gun.

This is a pretty bad movie and I didn't realize until halfway through that I'd seen it mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000 some years ago. The story has potential, especially since an overt theme of the film, that aging men are treated with respect but aging women are ignored (clearly articulated by Hemsley) is still relevant today. Gray and Talbott give decent performances, Terry does OK as the hissable villain, and Williams is his usual wooden but handsome self. There is too much obvious stock footage in the African sequences and the climax is almost totally botched. But for me the biggest problem is that Gray never, ever looks older than Terry, who looks rather seedy and every bit of his fifty years. Gray, not quite 40, looks like a rather dowdy 40 with what passes for old-age make-up on. When she's taken the serum, she looks great--it seems to mostly take away her dark eye circles and give her hair some kicky freshness--but because she never really looked that bad to begin with, it's hard to buy into the movie's central premise. The DVD print is pristine, but it's an plain and ugly-looking movie. [DVD]

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