Let me start by saying, so long as I'm laying bare my soul, that it's VERY HARD, for me to admit, in print, that I ACTUALLY LIKE "NIGHT OF THE LEPUS." OKAY???! I'VE SAID IT!!! I like "NIGHT OF THE LEPUS"!!! Made in 1972, NIGHT OF THE LEPUS is an eco-thriller in the tradition of other 70's epics like "FROGS", "DAY OF THE ANIMALS", "KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS", and about a million killer bee movies. It's about nature striking back in the form of... in the form of... GIANT CARNIVOROUS RABBITS. YES!!! You heard me! RABBITS!!!
So there's lots of shots of bunny-rabbits, photgraphed through macro-lenses, running through these darling miniatures as Creature Features music crashes in. The rabbits aren't even jacks or wild, mangy old hares; they're little Norwegian bunnies with fluffy cotton tails and the cutest little markings. Other shots are of guys in EASTER BUNNY OUTFITS jumping on and attacking terrified actors and livestock.
Speaking of livestock, the bunnies, at one point, start a cattle stampede. Of course, filming a stampede is expensive, so the producers used stock footage... from two different Westerns. The charging animals are heffers in some shots and steers in the next. The actors all play it straight, though. Actors like Oscar Nominees Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh. De Forest Kelly is thrown in for good measure, and watching these poor shmoes walk through this movie, wondering if it's a joke, is most of the fun. Because "NIGHT OF THE LEPUS" came out in 1972, the clothes are all really ugly. It's great to see these craggy-faced actors, pushing fifty, in shaggy haircuts, sideburns, and Steve Austin leisure suits. There's so much polyester in this movie, you expect static electricity to arc between the actors as they move around each other.
And the rabbits growl like grizzly bears!! And the sound guys added thundering footfalls to shots of the bunnies rampaging through town!! And there's the requisite 1970's shots of a helicopter taking off and landing, because every 70s movie that didn't have a car chase had to have shots of a helicopter taking off and landing. And Janet Leigh plays a mom in her forties wearing blue jeans with thick, white stripes and bell bottoms. And it's... It's... It's "NIGHT OF THE LEPUS." What more can I say? "NIGHT OF THE LEPUS" gets three bewildered headbangs out of four. The movie's too weird not to like. It's not out on video, but it shows up on late night TV pretty often.
Copyright 1996 Michael Marano
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