Deep-Fried Cheese: Movie Review – Night of the Lepus (1972)

by Jason D. Grooms

There are few things more terrifying than an enormous man-eating creature with a penchant for terror and a lust for wanton destruction.  It’s even worse when that creature has enormous teeth that can chew through steel and attacks in droves with no emotion or remorse for the mayhem they cause.  Now what if those creatures were the product of man’s hubris and pompous belief that he can control nature and bend it to his will?  I’ll tell you what.  It’s a produce truck driver’s worst nightmare – 10 foot tall rabbits with a lust for blood.  Be vewwwy vewwwy quiet – or they will KILL you!

"Maybe we could set up a giant box with a carrot underneath."

Night of the Lepus is one of those wonderfully rare examples of a phenomenal B-movie that’s so corny it’s wildly entertaining.  With the star power of DeForest Kelley (Bones from the original Star Trek) this movie tromps along with one after another insanely unbelievable shots of rabbits thumping through a miniature town or chewing on poor townsfolk.

It opens with the plight of a rancher who needs to rid his land of the pesky rabbits who have overrun his pasture land.  Looking for an environmentally friendly alternative to just gassing the whole damn 1,000 acres, he turns to professor Elgin Clark (Kelley) for help.

The good professor begins injecting the rabbits with a serum meant to disrupt the rabbits reproduction cycle and stop them from breeding like…well…rabbits, but there is an unfortunate side effect.  They begin to grow, at an alarming rate.  At first only to the size of those odd, dog-sized state fair rabbits that look like they’d be fun to walk around the block and kick the ass of that stupid chihuahua that lives around the corner.  But it doesn’t take long for them to begin to grow to a much more dangerous size.

As the rabbits make their way to town the deputy calls out with his police bullhorn perhaps one of the greatest lines in cinema.  “Attention!  Attention!  Ladies and gentlemen, attention!  There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!”  Who wouldn’t respond to that?  I mean I would totally grab my pitchfork, torch and chicken wire and follow him into battle.

Here come the bunnies!

Once they rabbits have reached “killer” size they begin to seek revenge on the town and kill indiscriminately.  In one horrific scene (and probably one of my favorite film scenes of all time) the rabbits attack a produce truck and not only murder the driver but completely gut his truck and devour all of the contents therein.  Oh the poor carrots…  It’s a gruesome sight indeed.

"Give me your celery!"

Nothing escapes their bloodlust as they continue the rampage – not cow, nor horse, nor goodly shop keepers.  By the way if I’ve learned nothing else from watching all of these movies, it’s that there is never a kindly shop keeper that comes out on top.  They always seem to meet a most untimely and bloody death.

In the end the professor and his posse must find a way to stop this lop-eared menace and put an end to there furry frenzy.  Finding that the rabbits have holed up in an abandoned series of caves outside of town during they day, the heroes attempt to blow them up with good old fashioned dynamite and trap them in the tunnels.  Incredibly the plot does not work.

In the end the National Guard is called in and the heroes are forced to try to drive the herd of fuzzy death-bringers into a deadly trap.  I’ll leave the ending for you to experience on your own because it is a fantastic scene indeed.  I will tell you that it features lots of great shots of rabbits flopping wildly around in what looks like a finely crafted model train set.

OK. Seriously. How do you get a rabbit's lips to do that? Superglue?

Of all the creatures that could be considered scary or frightening or unnerving, rabbits have to  be at the bottom of anyone’s list.  In fact, there is no mention of rabbits in the trailer, poster or even in the movie’s name, which uses the animal’s genus, Lepus (perhaps because it’s more scary than calling it Night of the Killer Bunnies).  Maybe that’s what makes this movie so good.  The absolute absurdity of it.  The rabbits tromp through fantastic miniatures and the close-ups that are meant to show a menacing toothy visage of evil are cause for some serious laugh-out-loud moments.

Yet despite it all, I LOVE this movie.  This was the first uber-cheesy movie that I ever watched and it got me completely hooked on the genre.  It is a must see for any creature feature lover, MST3K aficionado, or really anyone looking for a movie that delivers 2 tons of furry, bloody awesomeness.

Night of the Lepus (1972) Trailer

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