This Months Screening

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Night Of The Lepus

night of the lepus film poster

Nature run amok will always have its place in popular cinema, thanks in no small part to ‘Jaws’. But even before Spielberg’s box-office beast devoured money like fish flakes, eco-horror was already in vogue. 

Environmentalism was at its peak, which saw a number of nature strikes back films hit the screen including ‘Bug’, ‘Frogs’ and ‘Phase IV’, to name a few. Even Godzilla got in on the craze with ‘Godzilla vs Hedorah’. That still doesn’t get anyway close to explaining why someone thought the crackpot notion of rabbits on the rampage would make a fantastic film…

Night of the Lepus is based on the novel ‘The Year of the Angry Rabbit’ (seriously!) and sees a communities attempt to control its rabbit population by rounding up a number of the critters and handing them over to local scientists, Roy and Gerry Bennett (Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh). They set about controlling the rabbit reproduction rate with an experimental serum. As you’d expect, everything goes horribly wrong when their daughter Amanda switches one of the rabbits and takes it out of the laboratory. She loses the rabbit and it begins to breed. Suddenly a number of people are found gnawed to death. Could vampires be responsible?! Er…possibly. That or a bunch of giant mutant killer rabbits…

Night of the Lepus is a side splitting film. Its irony free opening sequence begins with newsreel footage of the ‘Rabbit War’ which documents the seemingly uncontrollable explosion of rabbits breeding. Without a hint of subtlety, the rabbits are rounded up and disposed of, all to the tone of a near apocalyptic doom mongering voice-over. It’s a complete hoot. Every mutant rabbit attack seen throughout the film is treated with utmost seriousness, which only heights the lunacy of the film.

For the first half hour or so this is hugely enjoyable stuff, but eventually the tediously slow and repetitive ‘special effects’ of the mutant rabbits begin to wear you down. It picks up towards the end, particularly the demise of the rabbits and one awful piece of dialogue uttered by a police officer to a crowd of cinema drive-in customers. If you want to spoil the best parts of the film, see the clip below.

Featuring laughable dialogue, inane plotting and hopeless acting, Night of the Lepus is fun for a one time viewing, but laboured for the most of its mercifully brief running time. Highly recommended to all bad film connoisseurs then!

Starring: Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley, Phillip Avenetti
Director: William F. Claxton
Screenplay by: Don Holliday, Gene R. Kearney
Date released: October 4th 1972
Genre: Eco-horror
Duration: 88 min
Official URL: N/A
Reviewed by: Conor Flynn

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