"How often have you seen an awful movie and said to yourself, 'What were they thinking?!' Well, after watching
Night of the Lepus, the question you'll be asking instead is
, 'Were they thinking?!'"
—The Agony Booth
Another legendary bad movie. This is the story of how Doctor McCoy
(OK, OK, De Forest Kelley
, but in a really
orange turtleneck) helped Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh and Rory Calhoun save the world from a herd of Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits
No, really. The idea is that experimental hormone injections intended to stop the rabbits breeding, as an environmentally friendly form of pest control, actually causes them to become Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits. One dosed-up bunny escapes into the wild and starts breeding with the local population. Suddenly there are hordes of Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits running around, and it's all very ironic. Or something.
In the interests of total fairness, wild rabbits can
be surprisingly vicious when pushed to it (ask anyone who's ever read Watership Down
). But trying to cast them as menacing monsters with a lust for human flesh is... proof that when this idea was greenlit the studio execs had just emerged from a decade spent under a rock, being whacked with a stupid stick. The clearly miniscule SFX budget doesn't help.
Eventually, Our Heroes drive the 'shambling hordes' over some electrified train tracks, and the viewer is left to imagine them spending the rest of their lives trying to convince people of how brave they were, saving the world from Thumper.
Interestingly, this movie was famously not
featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000
, despite the show having mentioned it a couple of times, indicating that its creators were aware of it. One can only assume they could not resolve the licensing issues (with a much more prominent studio than is usual among their targets)... or else they thought it would be just too
easy. Although it did get the RiffTrax
- Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: The trailer narration pronounces "mutant" as "Mute-Ant".
- Adaptation Distillation: Albeit chances are you've never heard of the novel.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever
- B-Movie: It's hard to believe a major studio (MGM) paid for this movie, let alone ponied up for a decent cast... but they did.
- Carnivore Confusion / Kill All Humans: The formerly strictly-herbivorous bunnies lust for flesh after becoming giant-sized, and though they do attack some horses and cattle, man is the main dish on their menu.
- Casting Gag: Paul Fixx, who plays Sheriff Cody, was Dr. Piper in the second Star Trek pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before", before being replaced by DeForest Kelley's Dr. McCoy for the rest of the series.
- Chroma Key: Very badly done.
- Covers Always Lie: Or at least misdirect.
- Likewise for the title. The studio was obviously counting on moviegoers not knowing what "Lepus" means.
- Disaster Movie: Explicitly falls into the ecological 'My God what have we done' subsection.
- Film of the Book: According to the credits anyway, this is an adaptation of Year of the Angry Rabbit, by Russell Braddon. The book was actually a satire on corrupt politicians, with the addition of killer rabbits. Since they used a different title and completely different plot it isn't clear why they bothered.
- Hair-Raising Hare. Well. It's what they were gunning for.
- Hollywood Science: Hey, let's see what this totally unknown serum does to rabbits! Then we can leave a young child alone with them!
- Idiot Houdini: No one ever calls out the little girl on switching the bunnies, or the boy who allowed the dosed-up one to escape. To be fair, they didn't know any better and were concerned about the rabbit's well-being, oblivious to their soon to be malevolent nature.
- Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits
- Kill It with Fire
- Lab Pet: The movie's set-up. The Scientist's daughter has grown attached to one of the test rabbits, and she swaps him with one from the control group. When said rabbit escape, it leads to the invasion of giant rabbits.
- Monochrome Casting: There's only one black (minor) character in the entire movie, Dr. Leopold.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer goes out of its way to avoid showing any Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits, which of course raises the question: if you realize your monsters aren't scary, why would you still make a movie about them?
- No Pronunciation Guide: Throughout the movie Lepus is pronounced as alternately "Leap-Us" or "Leh-Pus".
- And both are wrong (it's pronounced the same as 'leper').
- Our Monsters Are Different: Which in this case mostly means 'amazingly stupid'.
- People in Rubber Suits: The monster rabbits actually required to attack? Those are guys in bunny suits.
- The Professor
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Played straight to Fridge Logic levels. Really now — if you told a local sheriff that there are Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits heading towards town, they'd automatically assume you're either drunk or hiding a candid camera. The authorities in the movie, by contrast, seem perfectly OK with this concept.
- Leading to the famous followup scene where one police officer interrupts a showing at a Drive-In Theater to ask for assistance in dealing with a herd of Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits. Literally, all he says is "There is a herd of giant killer bunnies coming this way, and we need your help!" Not ONE person in the entire drive-in as much as raises an eyebrow at this before complying fully.
- The Seventies: Ooh yeah.
- Shout-Out: If you look carefully, you can see a few seconds of this movie on the TV in The Matrix when Neo walks into the Oracle's apartment. Bits of footage also appear in the movie Natural Born Killers.
- Slow Motion: Used to make bunnies on miniature sets look menacing. This fails spectacularly.
- Slurpasaur: A non-reptilian example when the giant bunnies are played by actual bunnies.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: See Idiot Houdini.
- The Watson: Amanda, Roy and Gerry's daughter, who asks all the scientific questions.