B-Movie Review - Night of the Lepus (1972)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic




Movies are a visual media right?  Well not so fast.  Buried beneath the clever alternating shots, point of view (POV) angles, and even dazzling special effects, there is of course the narrative.  Sure things blow up but why?  It’s the narrative of the script that tells you why things happen.  The scripted directions send out the message that Bob blew up his house because his cheating wife was inside.  Yes, blowing her up says how serious Bob is about adultery, but we might dwell on what is not said; we could spend the rest of the film wondering if Bob will feel guilt for the rest of his life.  When he steps forward toward the camera to fill a medium shot, and you see parts of his former residence falling from the sky, and he smiles saying, “Consider this a divorce!”  There can be no doubt about how he feels now, and it’s all thanks to the script.
I’ve spent a lot of time watching B movies with friends who say they could write something better than what we are watching, but they suffer from a misunderstanding.  What they don’t understand is that the finished product a frequently bares little resemblance to how it started.  It starts from the imagination of the writers who use their skills to transfer their thoughts to paper.  No one will pay attention to a bad script.  Even in the seemingly brain optional world of the sitcom, to be considered, a script must be good.  What most people don’t know is the number of producers, associate producers, and creative consultants who get to slime it up on the way to production.  They are the people who control the money, and I’m sorry to say ply their craft for marketing and salesmanship.  They are the ones who make the decision to take that edgy adult thriller and force the introduction of potty humour to get the 14 A crowd.  Suddenly you realize you have become a victim of marketing.
If you dare to watch, Night of The Lepus (and it is a dare) the subject of this blog instalment, and keep the words of the above paragraphs in mind. The writers had a vision of how our self-righteous attitudes towards science manipulating Mother Nature could be expressed by turning something considered cuddly and cute into a nightmarish monster.  Very symbolic with a strong message meant to impact the viewer on a deep level.  Read on and bare whiteness to a fine example of a bad example, the bad execution of a great idea.

Night of the Lepus (1972)



William F. Claxton
The Main Players
Stuart Whitman
Roy Bennett
Janet Leigh
Gerry Bennett
Rory Calhoun
Cole Hillman
DeForest Kelley (That’s right baby! Dr. (Bones) McCoy)
Elgin Clark
The Easter Bunny
Bad Bunnies
Man’s eternal struggle to tame his environment culminates in this one night battle for supremacy against one of nature’s most fierce creature; genetically altered giant bunny rabbits.
There are horror movies that just don’t deliver.  The movie promises to be a thrill ride when in fact it turns out the director decided to take the scenic route.  They wanted it to be scary but things just didn’t click.  They didn’t build up suspense, or perhaps they had too much suspense but didn’t go anywhere.  And then there is, Night of The Lepus, a movie that truly defies description and is second to none from the 70’s drive-inn era.  If you grew up in the 70’s and your parents took you to see this movie, you had bad parents.  Let’s see what kept this train wreck of a movie on the rails (and if you watch the movie, you’ll know just how clever that was).
Our film starts strong with some very moody B&W films of rabbit infestations being battled in Australia and New Zealand while being narrated in a news story style.  We are told of the massive damage these little breading machines do to crops and ecosystems when left to do what they do best, multiply.  Then the story speeds up to more contemporary images of the SW USA and farmers conducting bunny rabbit roundup.  Enter our number 2 hero, Cole Hillman riding across his range until his horse is taken down by a rabbit hole, and with a broken leg (look away Ainsley) has to be shot.  He hated the rabbits before but now it’s personal.  Cole needs help and seeks the council of his good friend Dr. McCoy, I mean Elgin Clark the president of the university.  Bones knows just what to do.
Elgin calls in the help of our main hero, Roy Bennett, who along with his lovely wife Gerry and irritating daughter Amanda, are surprised since Roy is an expert on Bats and other science crap never explained.Roy takes on the mission to help out Cole and save his ranch.  He doesn’t want Cole to use poison and decides a much safer approach would be genetic manipulation.  Seriously, Gerry explains to their little girl how they are trying to make all the rabbits androgynous.  This is where the basis of the horror begins.  Amanda loves bunnies and asks for one from the control group.  When mom and dad have their heads buried in guano she swaps out her pet for one of the experimental ones.  It shouldn’t come to any great surprise the mutant bunny manages to get loose while visiting Cole’s ranch and nothing makes a rabbit want to get it on like a few hours in a cage getting a special serum.
These rabbits don’t just copulate fast, they reproduce even faster.  In no time we get a series of giant bunny attacks starting with a delivery driver and followed by the massacre of a family of four.  Sheriff Cody is right on it, and despite this being a very small town, he has his own forensic team ready to jump into action.  It seems our specialist went to the same school Roy Bennett did because he practices the same sort of suspect scientific fast method.  The Sheriff and his boys are perplexed when the doc tells them the damage both to the driver and all his cargo was done by something that gnawed on everything.  Of course they want to know what they are up against and our CSI guy seriously says, “If I had to guess, I’d say a sabre tooth tiger did this.”  And to demonstrate where his conclusion comes from he holds up two fingers spread about an inch and a half apart to show how long the teeth of the mystery beast would be.  Yup, sabre tooth tiger is all it could be because nothing has teeth that long except for:
  • Beavers
  • Bears
  • Coyotes
  • Wolves
  • Hillbillies
You get the point, this is as scientific as voodoo.
Things really start to pickup now.  Cole, Roy and even Eglin find the rabbit cave, an abandoned mine, and apply my favourite fix to any problem; the right amount of high explosives.  This is the part of the movie where the signature creepy sound effect letting you know the rabbits are on the move appears.  The sound is so strange and even harder to describe, but if I had to, I would say there is a bubbling like sound in it and a bunch of rabbits growling if there is such a thing.  They decide to blast the old mine and seal the bunnies in. Now in true bad monster movie fashion, they leave thinking they have saved the world from hopping carnage.  The night of the Lepus begins.
The rabbits come out with a vengeance racing their way to population attacking anything they see; their first stop is Cole’s ranch.  Cole has a sort of unusual way of dealing with giant monster rabbits no one else has.  When the bunnies come knocking, Cole starts rocking with his 30.30 rifle.  Gigantic, mutant and sabre toothed they may be, but giant rabbits are not bullet proof.  Blood flies from the obviously stuffed bunnies on the miniature set of Cole’s country kitchen, and he has learned something invaluable about fighting these relentless creatures.  All he has to do is get the National Guard and everyone else together to fight them making a last stand for humanity from a rampaging horde of giant killer rabbits two miles wide, and who knows how deep; but who would believe him?  Turns out, just about anyone he tells.
That’s a running theme in this movie, every time they say, “Look you’re not gonna believe this,” they do without question.  Even if I saw a huge killer bunny right in front of me, I’d still say what’s that?  And after you told me I’d probably ask again while we were running for our lives.  I’m not going to spoil the ending for you, and I seriously doubt that’s possible but I will say humanity does not wind up being the slaves to rabbits, toiling in their fields raising crops of giant carrots.  I won’t say that because it makes way more sense than the actual ending of this movie which simply must be experienced.  I guarantee the ending will make you feel good inside.  You will either enjoy the way these lucky humans save themselves, or you will just be glad it’s over.  Either way you will understand the motivation behind Elmer Fudd.


Lessons Learned:
  • If a rabbit gets too big it stops being a vegetarian.
  • Genetic manipulation starts with a syringe.
  • Little girls might be made of sugar and spice but they aren’t always nice.
  • Drive-inn patrons will believe just about anything a police officer screams into a mega-phone.
Fun Facts:
  1. The producers of this film made sure not to feature any of the rabbits in posters or the trailer for fear of no one taking it seriously.
  2. To promote the movie, lucky rabbit feet made to look like they were dipped in blood were distributed.
  3. Oscar nominated Janet Leigh said she took this job because it was close to home and tried to forget it as much as possible.
  4. The special effect for this film mostly consisted of domestic rabbits filmed in slow motion as they lumbered around miniature model sets.  A man in a fir suit was used for close up attacks.

If you have a suggestion for an old bad Sci-Fi or Horror film you'd like to see a review on, please put in a comment and I will do my best to get it done.  BPB



Submitted: August 18, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Brian P Baldwin. All rights reserved.

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A true classic of the b movie genre.
Nice review.

Sun, August 19th, 2018 11:35am

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