Night of the Lepus (1972)

Rating: D+

Dir: William F. Claxton
Star: Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley

Great title, fabulous premise – what’s not to like about giant, carnivorous bunnies? – and one of the best lines of all-time in a B-movie: “Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!” Little wonder it pops (or perhaps, “hops”?) up in both Natural Born Killers and The Matrix. So why does it go so badly wrong, that Chris lost consciousness in the middle, and I was struggling to stay awake too? Basically, it’s the execution of the beasts themselves; while great the first time, you can only see rabbits lolloping in slow-motion through a model village so many times, before it grows old. My capacity for this was reached about 45 minutes in; the film runs 88. You do the math.

The storyline has husband-and-wife scientists (Whitman and Leigh) helping out a rancher (Calhoun) with his rabbit problem, using experimental drugs. However, due to their daughter’s fondness for fluffy cuteness, one of the subjects is released back into the wild. Mating, gigantism and savaging of the local population ensues, and traditional science – or, at least, the arm of traditional science which relies on the use of dynamite – is powerless to help as a tidal-wave of peeved bunnies heads, in excruciating slow-motion, for the town of Ajo. The only hope is if two miles of train-tracks can be electrified with enough voltage, to create what’s just some shortcrust pastry short of becoming the world’s largest rabbit pie. One senses this is trying to be a spoof of those ‘nature on the rampage’ pics that were popular around the time (1972), but if that is the case, the makers clearly forgot that spoofs are supposed to be amusing for their entire duration.