31 Monsters #15: The Lepus
Every once in a while, I catch a bad movie in which I find myself thinking, “At least I can see how someone might have thought this was a good idea.”
On paper, Night of the Lepus probably seemed reasonable enough. It was allegedly based on an Australian science-fiction novel called The Year of the Angry Rabbit, but after reading the description of the latter–a tale in which Australia inadvertently developed a biological superweapon while attempting to solve its two-century-old rabbit infestation–I suspect that someone merely bought the rights in order to avoid being sued. Because, while Australia has had a huge problem with bunnies, it has not had a problem with huge bunnies, and that’s what we got in Night of the Lepus.
So, let’s follow the train of thought. You’ve got an invasive species. Okay, there’s potential monster movie fodder there. Toss in some gigantism. As the Honey, I Shrunk (something or other) movies proved, pretty much anything is dangerous once it gets demonstrably bigger than you. And hey, rabbits have really big front teeth!
Unfortunately for the filmmakers, rabbits are also very cute.
Not that they didn’t try their damndest. They employed lots of fake blood, miniature photography and what appeared to be a man in a rabbit suit. And yet, it just didn’t matter how much gore they slathered on their bunny cast members. This was the result:
Among the non-rabbit cast were Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun and DeForest Kelley. Depressingly, this was Kelley’s final non-Star Trek feature film. Even more depressingly, it was in 1972.
At least DeForest escaped one moment of ignominy: he did not have to utter the film’s most infamous line. That honor went to Phillip Avenetti as police officer Lopez, who pulled his squad car into the local drive-in theater and shouted:
“Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!”
Yes, once again our most powerful anti-monster weapons were horny teens in hotrods. (This was not the first time the day was saved by car headlights.) They lured the giant carrot-munchers onto electrified railroad tracks, putting an end to the Night of the Lepus. The southwest desert was blanketed with a rank smell of hassenpfeffer which lingers to this day.