[box cover]

Night of the Lepus

Giant killer bunny rabbits. A film about giant killer bunny rabbits. Giant freakin' killer bunny rabbits. It seems like it should be a film starring Troy McClure briefly alluded to on "The Simpsons" (much like the forthcoming film Snakes on Plane, which is about… snakes on a plane). And yet it actually exists: In 1972 the world was treated to The Night of the Lepus. Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh play married scientists Roy and Gerry Bennet, who try to get rid of rancher Cole Hilman's (Rory Calhoun) rabbit problem. But the Bennet's daughter moves a test-subject rabbit to the wrong cage and then accidentally lets it loose, which then causes the local rabbit population to grow to the size of Volkswagens — or a man in a bunny suit, depending on what's called for. Hitchcock once said plausibility is the province of dull critics, but for something to be horrific it actually needs to harbor some malice, and the sight of a hundred overgrown rabbits isn't exactly panic-inducing; in fact, it may be more cuddle-inducing. There's nothing all that predatory about a bunny, even when its face is smeared with blood or it's made to protrude its front teeth (which aren't frightening incisors because, well, they're not pointy or threatening). Not helping matters any is that the miniature work done for the rabbit populace is never all that convincing, and at one point — when a rabbit catches fire — one bunny is quite obviously a stuffed version on a string. Director William Claxton can only be praised for never realizing how ridiculous the whole get up is — that's right, the film is played entirely straight. Perhaps the only thing praiseworthy is that the actors are professionals, and they don't embarrass themselves any more than having this title on their résumé. Night of the Lepus is one of the most legendary bad movies, a reputation enhanced by it never being released on home video (though it popped up on cable from time to time). Ultimately, it's better imagined or watched in selected clips than sat through, and for that the DVD release is something of a shame, because it shatters the mystique of a film — previously cloaked in the dark recesses of movie-myth — that stars giant freakin' killer bunny rabbits. Warner presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with DD 1.0 audio. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.

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