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Night of the Lepus (1972).

October 27, 2009

The Scoop:
Starring Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, DeForest Kelley, Rory Calhoun and some of the deadliest rabbits outside of Monty Python, “Night of the Lepus” is one of the pioneering films in the ‘70s wave of eco-horror films and, needless to say, probably the silliest.

When Arizona rancher Cole Hillman’s (Calhoun) land is overrun with rabbits, he gets his university president pal Elgin Clark (Kelley) to call in heroic wildlife researchers Roy and Gerry Bennett (Whitman and Leigh) to find a nonpoisonous, environmentally friendly way to control the population. Unfortunately, the couple’s daughter Amanda (Melanie Fullerton) switches around some of the rabbits her parents are experimenting on, resulting in a plague of giant man-eating bunnies terrorizing the desert Southwest.

Director William F. Claxton and writers Don Holliday and Gene R. Kearney (working from what must be an absurd novel by Russell Braddon) throw in just about every genre cliché available, and while there is the occasional good moment, it’s just not enough. The fairly talented cast just sleepwalks through every scene and the script lets a lot of important pieces of plot happen offscreen. And no matter how much the breathless introduction tries to convince us how threatening rabbits can be, it’s all undercut by the ridiculous premise and bad slow motion effects.

“Night of the Lepus” is definitely a must-watch, but for all the wrong reasons.

Best Bit:
The bunny attack inside the miner’s shack.

Side Note:
The studio was afraid that if the audience knew the movie was about killer rabbits, they wouldn’t watch it. So the novel’s title (“The Year of the Angry Rabbit”) was changed and no rabbits appeared on the original theater posters.

Companion Viewing:
“Kingdom of the Spiders” (1977).

The Agony Booth.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

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