Friday, March 20, 2015

Let Them Eat Carrots!

Night of the Lepus is one of those movies you have to see to believe. Chock full of stars such as Rory Calhoun, Stuart Whitman, Deforest Kelly, and Janet Leigh this one has a gloss of seriousness which misleads the viewer.

This is one of those classic so-bad-it's-good movies, which tries with little success in trying to transform rabbits into a menacing pack of giant killers. There are a lot reasons this one falls short, but the premise is so weak its tough to recover.

Based on the satirical novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Bradon, this movie directed by longtime Western veteran William Claxton goes out of its way to drop most of the trappings of the book save for the killer rabbits.

Structurally the movie makes a giant blunder (pun intended) when it introduces the tiger-sized rabbits less than a third of the way into the flick, leaving way too much time for the meager special effects to fill and much too long for the hapless heroes to find a way to stop the menace.

The Lepus Lounging
Just take a look at these ferocious killers as they wait out the day in a cafe. It's difficult to get too scared of a pack of bunnies who clearly seem just shy of catching a nap.

Janet Leigh, Deforest Kelly, Stuart Whitman, and Rory Calhoun
And the heroes are lame. The obligatory scientist (and his bratty daughter) played Whitman is singularly responsible for the menace which does cost dozens of lives, but gets no recrimination or blame that I can detect and in fact seems to have a pretty clear hand to order all sorts of folks (cops included) around in the finale.

Janet Leigh as the scientist's wife has to literally go out of her way to get menaced by the killer rabbits and her rescue seems wildly improbable, almost literally deus ex machina.

Of all the cast Rory Calhoun's steadfastness seems most suited to the material though he does things himself which make you scratch your head. He nonetheless keeps trucking or walking or whatever is needed.

Let me be clear, Night of the Lepus is a terrible movie -- clunky, edited with small attention to continuity, and full of absurdities. That said it does have a near compelling train-wreck aspect to it, as it's hard to take your eyes off it as it hops down the tracks.

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  1. I remember watching this on TV but it's only the fact that the rabbits were gigantic that stuck in my mind - I'd completely forgotten that they were supposed to have become carnivorous. Actually, hordes of carnivorous killer rabbits would be quite scary even at their ordinary size in my opinion but perhaps they had to make them giant-sized to completely dispel any lingering cuddly-bunny image.

    1. They still look like cuddly bunnies though, that's the problem. The images I've seen of the rabbits which overran the farmers in Australia so many years ago are pretty dang scary. That, not unlike the movie The Birds, might have been creepier than giants.

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