Once in a blue moon, a movie comes along that feels as if it sprung fully-formed from my forehead, not unlike Athena from that of Zeus. One such movie is today's feature, Night of the Lepus (1972), a movie that has so much in it I enjoy that it's hard to believe it's not a dream. A movie with a line like "There's a herd of killer rabbits headed this way!" just seems too good to be true, doesn't it? Rest assured, though, the film actually exists- and it features Rory Calhoun, Janet Leigh, and a mustachioed DeForest Kelley. Life is so good sometimes.
Arizona's very existence is threatened by an explosion in the rabbit population. Rather than simply poisoning the little bastards (for fear of throwing the entire ecosystem out of whack), the very scientific, very married team of Roy and Gerry Bennett (Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh) are called in to come up with a nature-but-not-rabbit-friendly solution.
Back at The Lab, Team Bennett starts injecting bunnies with various serums in an attempt to curb the population. Thanks to their stupid daughter (Melanie Fullerton), a doped-up bunny is released into the wild. Somehow the serum causes the rabbit to grow to a massive size and develop a taste for human flesh. How one bunny became hundreds in a day (that's fast, even for rabbits, I'm pretty sure) and how these docile herbivores became ravenous carnivores isn't explained, but I don't care! the important thing here is that there are herds of massive rabbits roaming the desert terrorizing towns and looking for humans upon which to feed!
Night of the Lepus was made in those heady pre-CGI days, and I'm ever-so-thankful for it. While I can't say the effects are "great", I find that there's something inherently charming in the approach here: regular-sized rabbits tromping through miniature sets. What it amounts to are lots of shots of rabbits running intercut with shots of rabbits leaping and maybe a big, fake rabbit paw smacking someone in the face. The secret here, the filmmakers seem to think, is that is you play weird mood music and show the rabbits running in slow motion, they'll seem big. It's hokey, to be certain, but it's also the sort of movie magic that makes me feel like a kid again. That's a rare treat, my friends.
While there is a surprisingly large amount of blood in the movie, by far the most horrifying thing onscreen is this unfortunate attack of male-pattern baldness, which I have decided to call The Dollop:
Night of the Lepus is about as simple and straightforward as you can get: big rabbits attack! It's the perfect Saturday afternoon movie, to be viewed right after a morning full of cartoons. I give it 6 out of 10 footie pajamas.