Joe’s Blog

Night of the Lepus (1972)

May 6, 2008 5:03 am

Night of the lepus posterWhat is a hungover sunday on a Bank Holiday weekend for except watching trash, eating crap food and generally lounging about in your pants.

That’s generally how I spent the sunday just gone (although I did eventually get dressed), as Lady Scaramanga, myself and Harry Webshiter settled in for a trio of trash cinema at its ‘finest’.

First up is the near-legendary ‘when animals attack’ movie Night of the Lepus. Based on an obscure satirical Australian novel, and subsequently stripped of eveything interesting, this falls into that wonderfully 70s genre. Basically, all these movies (Food of the Gods, Giant Spider Invasion et al), will involve a down-on-their-luck actor battling with poorly matted shots of giant animals, whilst conjuring up a ‘it’s so crazy it just might work’ plan to deal with the situation.

Lepus follows the formula so slavishly that it could be accepted as passable time wasting but for one glaring issue… rabbits are not scary. Yes, that’s right, I said rabbits.

Giant rats are scary. Spiders of nearly any size are scary. Giant mutant sea monsters are scary. Rabbits, of ANY size, are not scary. So the film is crippled from the start.

It’s got an interesting cast. Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh play a ‘young couple’ (the film’s words, not mine) researching animal behaviour, who are called in by Professor Clark (My GOD! Deforrest Kelly!!!!) to investigate an explosion of the rabbit population in some arse-end-of-nowhere Arizona town.

(This is the sort of town where EVERYONE has a rifle. Surely they’d welcome their lupine friends as target practice and fresh meat?)

Anyhoo… the scientists balls up royally, by using an un-tested serum (Whitman admits having no idea what it does when he administers it), and letting their daughter have a rabbit as a pet. The kid promptly swaps her control rabbit (one that hasn’t been tested on) for another (guess which one…). It gets loose and before you can say chicka-wah-wah it’s shagging every other rabbit in sight, and they start growing to extreme proportions (turns out it was a growth serum… or something).

 Much hilarity ensues as the rabbits march on in slo-mo over Hornby railway models, occassionally stopping to be substituted for a guy in an oversized rabbit costume to attack the townspeople (cue close-ups of cute bunnies with ketchup on their faces).

One quite disturbing scene shows a (dead) rabbit set alight and chucked about (clearly on strings) in the middle of a group of genuine (and presumably terrified) live rabbits.

So, after a failed attempt to trap them in a mine (yeah, rabbits can burrow… you’d think a scientist would know that), it’s eventually decided to electrocute them on a railway line. But not before we’ve had a marvellous sequence where the rabbits attack two pieces of stock footage of cows simultaneously, whilst travelling through time so they are at night, but the cows exist in daytime.

It’s utter tripe, quite frankly. In fairness, some of the effects work is quite good. There’s continuity of scale (a concept many giant animal movies forget, even Jaws was a bit fuzzy on this) and an excellent matte shot of a rabbit approaching a guy hiding behind a truck. But this is undone by the ludicrous ‘man in a suit’ sequences.

The editing is atrocious. Scenes begin and end quite arbitrarily, with post-production dubbing seemingly laid on at random where they feel a scene doesn’t quite make sense. (One scene ended with a piece of dialogue spoken by someone who wasn’t even in the scene).

There is actually very little to recommend Lepus, beyond pure kitsch value. In fact there’s nothing. Except Dr McCoy’s moustache, which you’re sure is going to leap off and attck someone at any minute.

Nowhere near as good as Tarantula or Them; not as joyously exploitative as Food of the Gods; and not even enough to give FOTG 2 a run for its money. It holds curio, after hours entertainment only.

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