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Film / Night of the Lepus

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A 1972 American Sci-Fi Horror film produced by A. C. Lyles and directed by William F. Claxton, telling the story of how Dr. Elgin Clark (DeForest Kelley sporting an extremely orange turtleneck) helped Roy (Stuart Whitman) and Gerry (Janet Leigh) Bennett, along with rancher Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun), to save the world  or a small town in Arizona, anyway  from a herd of Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits.

The premise is that experimental hormone injections, intended to prevent the rabbits from breeding as an environmentally-friendly form of pest control, actually cause them to become homicidal. One dosed-up bunny escapes into the wild and starts breeding with the local population. Suddenly there are hordes of killer rabbits running around.

Not to be confused with The Nasty Rabbit (1964), a spy comedy starring Arch Hall Jr. and written by Arch Hall Sr. about a Soviet plot to release rabbits infected with a deadly bacteria into the United States.

Watch the trailer here.


Examples:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: The trailer narration pronounces "mutant" as "Mute-Ant".
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit, the Australian government isn't willing to do anything about the giant rampaging rabbits because of both being your standard disaster story Suit with Vested Interests conclave and/or incompetent. The American authorities of this film, once they get over a brief initial "giant rabbits? You must be joking!" period, immediately support the heroes.
  • Artistic License Biology: A giant rabbit claws a gap in a wooden floor in an apparent attempt to get at the humans in the cellar. Rabbits, like their distant rodent cousins, could far more easily gnaw their way through wood, and cannot claw through objects in that way.
  • Ascended to Carnivorism: 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. In later scenes, they are shown stampeding to hurl themselves at humans right past edible trees and bushes. There's even a scene where the rabbits raid a produce barn and happily munch on vegetables for a few minutes, then resume their rampage.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Well, they're not quite that big, but they are Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits, and they are attacking.
  • Expospeak Gag: The film's title. Admittedly, "Lepus" sounds scarier than "Rabbit", but nevertheless it is all part of how the advertisement went out of its way to not show what kind of monsters this film had.
  • The Film of the Book: According to the credits, at least, this is an adaptation of the 1964 novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit, by Australian author Russell Braddon. The novel was actually a satire on corrupt politicians and the Cold War nuclear arms race, with the addition of killer rabbits as a kind of Diabolus ex Machina. Since they used a different title and completely different plot, it isn't clear why they bothered.
  • Hair-Raising Hare. Our monsters for this film are Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits. Well. It's what they were gunning for.
  • High-Voltage Death: The plan to kill the rabbits at the climax involves attracting them to a location where they will need to cross a railway track to get to the bait. The track is electrified and lots of people with guns stand ready to blow away any rabbits that cross. Result: rabbit massacre.
  • Hollywood Science: Hey, let's see what this totally unknown serum does to rabbits! Meanwhile, we can leave a young child alone with them!
  • Idiot Houdini: The little girl who switches out the bunnies in the first place, aided and abetted by the little boy who subsequently allows the dosed-up one to escape. Her father, who's running the experiment, is similarly never punished or so much as scolded for the clearly lax security measures that allowed this to happen.
  • In Name Only: The film's opening credits proudly claim the film is based on the novel "The Year of the Angry Rabbit" by Russell Brandon. The only thing it uses from the novel is the "giant rampaging rabbits" plot point.
  • Kent Brockman News: The movie begins with a report delivered by Jerry Dunphy, who was the inspiration for the Trope Namer.
  • Killer Rabbit: Hordes of them. And not a Holy Hand Grenade in sight.
  • Kill It with Fire: How the main characters try to deal with the rabbits.
  • Lab Pet: The movie's set-up. The scientist's daughter has grown attached to one of the test rabbits, so when told she can have one from the control group for a pet, she swaps it out for the test bunny. When said test rabbit escapes, it leads directly 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?
  • Our Monsters Are Different: Which in this case mostly means 'amazingly stupid.'
  • Overcrank: The film tries to make the rabbits scary by shooting them in slow-motion. It doesn't work.
  • People in Rubber Suits: The monster rabbits actually required to attack? Those are guys in bunny suits.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • 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.
    • 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 so much as raises an eyebrow at this before fully complying (and they all bring their kids along!).
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Lampshaded in the RiffTrax. "Now THAT'S how you scream like a little girl!"
  • The '70s: Ooh yeah.
  • Shout-Out: Amazingly, the plan used to kill the rabbits is almost exactly the same as the title character's final ploy in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
  • 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.
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: For wild animals supposedly driven to turn predatory due to the exhaustion of their usual food sources, the killer bunnies all look really well-fed and groomed. They also exhibit a variety of domestic coat patterns, which is inconsistent with a single domestic ancestor's genes having blended with those of a large wild-type rabbit population.
  • The Watson: The actual reason Amanda, Roy and Gerry's daughter, is allowed to hang around the lab asking questions while the experiments are ongoing is clearly to give her parents a chance to lay out the scientific exposition for the viewer.

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