Night of the Lepus

Night of the Lepus

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Rabbits produce two things in obscene quantities: other rabbits and rabbit pellets. Thankfully, the only thing that “the pre-Monty Python killer rabbit movie” Night of the Lepus begat was the filmic equivalent of the latter. Not unlike the dire, one-joke Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, only played ludicrously straight, William F. Claxton’s film is a radically dull riff on the nature-run-amok genre, utilizing what must’ve felt at the time like the only animal not yet exploited to scare audiences. But scares are exactly what the filmmakers didn’t get—not even with some early-‘70s PG grue, multiple close-ups of giant bunnies’ tusk-like buck teeth, or Janet Leigh in that tweaky, full-on DT-shakes mode that came to characterize all of her latter-day horror performances.

The film takes place on a parched desert prairie that’s overrun by a plague of the fat lagomorpha, seriously pissing off a farmer who probably deserves all the grief coming to him, given that he was moronic enough to try to irrigate the desert in the first place. He recruits a committee of ivory-tower eggheads to come up with a solution, since rounding the herds up in fences and kicking them around only appears to spook the horses. Quicker than you can place bets on “playing God,” the scientists (Leigh and Stuart Whitman, in a “we nominated them for Oscars and this is how they repay the legacy” twofer) have 30 of the furballs sequestered in paper-lined cages with various pharmacological cocktails dripping down their slimy little throats.

Rabbits don’t have vocal cords, so Big Science can’t hear them scream. Luckily, the real God is a card-carrying PETA member, and with the help of His human incarnation on Earth (in the form we all feared He’d take: a very blond, very terrible little actress), a tainted bunny ends up back in the wild. Specifically in an underground network of caves, where it apparently busts his polluted nut in gallons—because not even so much as a day later there are mysterious human mutilations and an ominous rumbling from the hills. Vengeance has a new face, foolish humans, and it’s an absofuckinglute waste of time.

Buy
DVD
Distributor
MGM
Runtime
88 min
Rating
PG
Year
1972
Director
William F. Claxton
Screenwriter
Don Holliday, Gene R. Kearney
Cast
Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley, Paul Fix, Melanie Fullerton, Chris Morrell, Chuck Hayward, Henry Wills, Francesca Jarvis, William Elliott