Film Review: Night of the Lepus (1972)

Also known as: Rabbits (working title, Germany, Austria)
Release Date: September th, 1972 (Ireland)
Directed by: William F. Claxton
Written by: Don Holliday, Gene R. Kearney
Based on: The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon
Music by: Jimmie Haskell
Cast: Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley, Paul Fix, Don Starr

A.C. Lyles Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Attention! Attention! Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!” – Officer Lopez

This movie, in my opinion, has a lot of unjustified hatred towards it. People have trashed it for years and talked it down like it’s a blight on early ’70s cinema.

Well, those people don’t have taste, a real appreciation for killer animal horror and don’t have the keen eyesight to spot a diamond in the rough.

Okay, this isn’t a great film and maybe it’s not even a good one by the ridiculous standards of hoity-toity film critics. However, it’s damn entertaining for fans of the right kind of well-aged cheese and it boasts some practical special effects that just work… well, for the most part.

This film is about giant rabbits that have overtaken a small town in Arizona. It employs a lot of force perspective shots, as well as miniature models to help give regular sized rabbits some scale. While these techniques may seem outdated by 1972 (they really weren’t yet), they were actually well done and effective. And seeing this in modern HD didn’t really ruin the magic, which is something that happens way too often with movies from this era.

Honestly, the only real effects that didn’t work were probably the same ones that didn’t work in 1972. Those are the scenes where a large killer rabbit has to interact with a human actor in the same shot. These scenes are very obviously just some stuntman in a furry costume batting his fists at the victims. It’s hokey and the attacks look too human but luckily, this isn’t used too much. But I understand why they had to do it, as you had to show some flesh-on-flesh mauling because it’s the early ’70s and no one wanted the violence to be implied offscreen. The ’70s were edgier, the Hollywood Code was old news and horror got to throw some gore on the big screen.

The film isn’t well acted, despite having Janet Leigh in it, as well as Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun and DeForest Kelley alongside her. None of the key players are terrible but they do seem like they’re just going through the motions and dialing it in, as low budget, B-movie horror apparently didn’t require their A-game.

Still, I dig this film quite a bit and I do think it’s better than what the filmgoing consensus has led the world to believe for nearly fifty years.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other killer animal horror movies of the ’70s; the cheesier, the better.

 

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