Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Watching horrible movies may be a thankless but necessary job — something akin to being a sanitation worker: You must clear out the stinkers to keep the general public safe. If someone comes forward and asks you to review a particular dud, you cannot shirk your duty. Thus in response to one fan’s request, I give you ... “Night of the Lepus.”
You know you’re in trouble right away when you learn that this 1972 epic was based on a science-fiction novel titled “The Year of the Angry Rabbit,” and that the original title of the film was “Rabbits.” Yes, we’re talking bunnies, and not just angry bunnies but giant mutant carnivorous ones. If that concept doesn’t make your hare stand on end, nothing will.
To be fair, the movie does a credible job of establishing these varmints as a threat by showing purportedly “true” footage of wild rabbits ransacking Australia. The story, however, takes place in the desolate American Southwest and enlists a cast of stalwart actors — Rory Calhoun, Stuart Whitman, “Star Trek’s” Deforest Kelly and Janet Leigh (who was later accused of “slumming it”). They’re all brought on board to deal with the marauding lupines (products of an experiment gone awry) as they move from desert town to desert town, killing everything in their path.
Guns, explosives — nothing seems to stop these beasts. There are scenes of unbearable tension, such as when our heroes get trapped in a cellar and the rabbits try to chew their way in. And there are laughs galore, as when the bunnies chow down on customers at a diner.
(In terms of far-fetchedness, however, this film does not come close to another movie I watched this week, “Sharknado 2,” where logic is blown out the window with gale force as you are asked to accept that sharks can attack a plane, that a 63-story building can be flooded and that the New York Mets can win a game.)
“Lepus” keeps a straight face throughout, even at the finale when the National Guard is called in (insert your illegal aliens joke here) and the patrons of a drive-in theater are called upon to herd the rabbits with their car lights onto electrified train tracks where the bunnies finally meet their agonizing demise in a sequence that contains more electrical bolts than a dozen “Frankenstein” flicks.
It will probably come as no surprise that “Night of the Lepus” has been called one of the “most ridiculous horror film[s] ever conceived” and even “one of the worst films ever made.” But these judgments were made by critics decades ago (who probably never lived to see “Sharknado 2”).
— Blaise Majkowski
Gazette page designer and B-movie aficionado