Night of the Lepus (1972) — Doctor McCoy, what are you doing here?

“Attention! Attention! Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!”

Justin’s rating: “You do not need three guns to recapture this creature when a sharp stick would have sufficed!” (Thank you, Fierce Creatures)

Justin’s review: As a compromise between my wife (who hates dogs) and myself (who can’t stand cats), we mutually purchased a slightly defective Dwarf Lop named Marcie. As bunnies go, Marcie is fairly quiet and meek; she’ll thump her cage to get your attention, but mostly just wants to be held, have her cheeks rubbed, and to be tossed gently over a pit of snapping cobras. We try to oblige. In the many months of rabbit observation, the most vicious behavior I’ve seen on Marcie’s behalf is when she once in a while nips at my wife to say, “Okay, listen, I’m a lady too, but I’ve had enough of the snuggling for now.”

It’s for this reason, and about a billion more, that the whole concept of taking possibly the most cute and cuddly critter in the animal kingdom and trying to make them feared by audiences is fundamentally flawed. Bunnies Are Not Scary. I shouldn’t have to elaborate, but whoever decided to put together Night of the Lepus (based on an actual novel!) needed a good lesson from Justin’s Whomping Stick.

Fully deserving of your MST3K treatment, Night of the Lepus is possibly one of the oddest “animals-turned-deadly” movies that was ever shot. Sure, once you’ve done sharks, bats, ants, grasshoppers, monkeys and preschoolers, you’re not left with a lot of options. But still… bunnies? It’s not just an uphill battle, it’s a gigantic cliff face that no respectable mountain climber would attempt unless he or she had a death wish and a very large bottle of tequila.

A plague of rabbits descends upon a poor rancher’s… um, ranch, and he pleads with local mad scientists to intervene so he doesn’t have to spray poison. The scientists, dopes that they always seem to be in movies, quickly whip up a batch of mysterious serum that certainly won’t have the horrible side effect of causing a bunny to grow to 150 pounds and crave human flesh. Surely not. And the scientists also have a brain-damaged daughter, who swaps out the injected bunny with a replacement, so she can promptly take Mutant Bugs Bunny out to the wild and release her. I don’t think the plague here is the “lepus” but “idiots.”

Other than going, “Hey! That’s Psycho’s Janet Leigh and Star Trek’s DeForest Kelley!” the most mileage you’ll get from this flick is to witness the filmmakers stumble all over themselves trying to do the impossible: to create and film supposed 150-pound man-eating rabbits without the aid of even the most basic computer technology. Being a quick student of the cinematic arts, I deduced their technique and scribbled it down for you.

How To Make Giant Murderous Rabbits Work, Badly

  1. Film rabbits hopping in slow, slow motion.
  2. Add, for no good reason, growls. I don’t think bunnies are capable of growling, but there you go.
  3. Never, ever show a giant rabbit together on screen with a human. Just cut back and forth between rabbit (“growl”) and person (“Ahh! No! Don’t eat me, Fluffy!”).
  4. To suggest an attack has taken place, film a close-up on a rabbit’s mouth, smeared with red paint. Yum.
  5. Then cutaway to the “victims” with their horribly mutilated bodies, which is to say, lightly ripped clothing and about two gallons of quite pale tomato juice poured over them.

And there you go. Now you, too, can create your own Night of the Lepus!

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