Tuesday, December 13, 2016

hop to it.

Been so excited about the midnight showing of Rogue One and my upcoming birthday (I'm turning 21! can you believe it!?) that I've not been able to sleep so been spending the evening watching the films.

Particularly all those that you end up buying on a whim cos you enjoyed them when you were 9 and have never watched since.

Night of The Lepus (AKA Rabbits. 1972).
Dir: William F Claxton.
Cast: Stuart Whitman, DeForest Kelley, Janet Leigh, Melanie Fullerton, Chris Morrell, some rabbits (obviously)  and Rory Calhoun.



Attention! Attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!


Can I just say that on those rare occasions when a movie opens with grainy, documentary footage of big hunky men armed with large pointy sticks slowly advancing on some fluffy bunnies whilst an oh so serious voice over tells of the famine and disasters caused by 'rabbit plagues' over the years you know you're about to experience something special.

And no I don't mean Mr Tumble stumbling about shit-faced in a car park whilst signing 'cheap booze' at an anorak-clad moppet.

Tho' admittedly that would be worth seeing.

And who knows, the great man himself may even turn up in this film at some point.

I mean stranger things have happened.

But I digress.

A wee bit like the film actually as the almost Blair Witch/Alternative 3 style shockumentary footage is quickly replaced by a grainy shot of a field somewhere in the American mid-west where a group of disinterested extras are rounding up a group of painfully bored rabbits.

Indeed cinema doesn't get any more exciting - or Leporidae obsessed - than this.

But is there a reason for all this bunny bothering?

Well yes there is as it soon transpires that the local rabbit farm has been destroyed by fire meaning that the rascally rabbits are all making a bid for the prairie and freedom.

This in turn is upsetting the local cow poke because their horses keep falling down the rabbit holes and breaking their legs.

Luckily the local ranch owner Cole Hillman (Calhoun - don't judge) owns a big gun and is quite happy to go around shooting any fallen foles in the face.

Well until he realizes that if it continues the whole town will be skipping about banging coconuts together if a better remedy isn't found soon.


The real McCoy? (sorry).


Luckily a local pair of entomologists, Lenny Bennett and his wife Elizabeth (an unusually sober Whitman and an obviously slumming it Leigh) alongside their pal Eglin Clark (Kelley) offer their expertise in order to solve the rabbit problem.

But which course of action will they follow?

A. Hire the Elmer Fudd like, gun crazed Cole to go out and shoot them all.

B. Rabbit poison.

C. Use a never before tested experimental DNA-altering serum that could cause hideous mutations.

Reckoning that blindly tampering with nature on a genetic scale is more environmentally sound than poison they plum for the serum, which the Bennett's decide to test on their young daughter Amanda's pet rabbit first.

What caring parents.
The company that make these refused to put "Shite in mah mooth!" on it. Killjoys.



Amanda, as you can probably guess, is slightly upset by the thought of her dad sticking something in her pet so to this end sneaks into her parents lab and kidnaps the rabbit under cover of darkness.

As in at night obviously, not whilst disguised as Justin Hawkins but to be honest that may have brightened up the movie a wee bit.

Heading over to the Hillman ranch she soon comes across Cole's permanently scowling son Jackie (current resident of Chesapeake, VA and father of 3 Morrell in his only film role) who wrestles the rabbit from the poor girls grasp before popping it down a nearby rabbit hole unknowingly setting in motion a deadly series of events the likes of which the world has never seen.

And probably never wanted to anyway.

It's only a matter of time (well it is a short movie) before the local towns folk discover that their carrot patches have all been dug up and that a number of locals start turning up dead with huge incisor marks over their bodies.

Could these things be related?

Well most of the locals are so it wouldn't surprise me.

After a quick scientific natter our heroes decide that the serum must have mutated the rabbits to giant size.

Oh and turned them into ferocious meat eaters.

Which is nice.

Surprisingly everyone completely accepts this explanation without question.

They don't even get angry, just shrug their - collective - shoulders and begin to plan a counter-attack.

You've gotta love those plucky Americans.


"Fuck me! It's George Galloway!"



Meanwhile the rampant rabbits are on the move - in slow motion to add to the menace obviously -  first eating a not only a truck driver but the entire contents of his truck before chowing down on an unfortunate group of campers and finally setting up home in an abandoned lemonade mine.

Following the trail of corpses and carrot tops our heroes soon find the loopy Leporid's lair and quickly agree that the best course of action would be to blow the furry fuckers sky high with dynamite.

But as is always the way in movies like this they decide to go and explore the mine first in the vain hope of finding some vintage lemonade bottles and therefore make a few quid on the side.


Makes sense I guess.


"Lick yer lips luv!"


Stumbling about in the dark for what seems like days whilst the crew scrape enough cash together for a halfway decent matte shot Lennie and Cole do eventually come across the rabbits and stop to take a few selfies with them.

No, really.

Not too surprisingly the camera flash coupled with incredulous cries of "Fuck me! look at the size of the ears on that!" wake the brutish bunnies who then give chase - well give hop - after our heroes.

Scrambling out of the mine in the nick of time the pair detonate the explosives burying the rabbits under tonnes of rock and Cadbury's Caramel Wrappers.

Admit it....



With a spring in their step and a song in their hearts everyone returns to the ranch for a celebratory evening of cake eating, cousin kissing and moonshine moothing safe in the knowledge that the rabbit threat is no more.

The party is interrupted by a knock at the door and Cole, expecting a delivery from the Davenports man goes to answer it.

But it's not a delivery of booze but the rabbits, returned and ready for revenge.
  
Scarily it turns out that in all the excitement of explosions, cakes and whatnot everyone appears to have forgotten the fact that rabbits are actually quite well known for digging.

We've all done it.

Running to the barn to find his remaining horses eaten, Cole decides to leg it to the nearest town for help but on arrival finds it spookily deserted save the big brooding shadows of giant bunnies staring at him from the darkened windows of the local pub.

"Did you spill my pint?"


Brave Cole slowly tiptoes to a pay phone and calls the National Guard whispering the immortal lines "There's a herd of killer rabbits in town and we desperately need your help!"

Will the combined strength of the US military and the surviving townsfolk be enough to repel the might of the Lepus or will they eventually defeat humanity, hopping across the entire Earth like furry, big eared stormtroopers.

But let's be honest do you really care?





From writer/producer/director William F. Claxton (best known for his work on Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza and The High Chaparral amongst other TeeVee hits) Night of the Lepus is one of those rare movies that needs to be seen - with witnesses obviously - to be believed.

Terrifyingly neither tongue in cheek or camply humorous, the movie was made as if everyone involved actually thought that the scariest thing in the world would be if giant killer rabbits existed.

And I for one raise my glass to them.

If not question their sanity.

"Laugh now!"

There's really nothing you can add to the above description as any criticism seems redundant in the face of what's on screen so I'll leave the last word to
Lee Sollenberger, one of the films FX crew who was once interviewed (by trading standards no doubt) about the films grueling shoot and enduring legacy.

"Anyone who has ever worked with animals knows how difficult it can be. "Lepus" was a very difficult film to do. We worked in tremendous heat conditions and had hundreds of rabbits to deal with. It was a fun film for the trainers I think because no one had done a horror film with rabbits before".
Or it turns out, since.

A misjudged gem of a movie.

And by that I mean utterly shite in every way.

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