|Night of the Lepus|
|"LEPUS MEANS RABBIT!" - Mike Nelson|
|Riffers||Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett|
|Date Released||February 7, 2014|
Night of the Lepus, also known as Rabbits, is a 1972 American science fiction horror film based on the 1964 science fiction novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit. Released theatrically on October 4, 1972, it focuses on members of a small Arizona town who battle thousands of mutated, carnivorous killer rabbits.
The film was the first science fiction work for producer A. C. Lyles and for director William F. Claxton, both of whom came from Western film backgrounds. Character actors from Westerns the pair had worked on were brought in to star in the Night of the Lepus, including Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, and DeForest Kelley. RiffTrax released their riff in February 2014.
Synopsis and Preview
Rancher Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun) seeks the help of college president Elgin Clark (DeForest Kelley) to combat thousands of rabbits that have invaded the area after their natural predators, coyotes, were killed off. Elgin asks for the assistance of researchers Roy (Stuart Whitman) and Gerry Bennett (Janet Leigh) because they respect Cole's wish to avoid using cyanide to poison the rabbits. Roy proposes using hormones to disrupt the rabbits' breeding cycle and takes some rabbits for experimentation. One is injected with a new serum believed to cause birth defects. However, the Bennett's daughter Amanda (Melanie Fullerton) loves the injected rabbit, so she switches it with one from the control group. Amanda is then given the injected rabbit as a pet, but it soon escapes.
While inspecting the rabbits' old burrowing areas, Cole and the Bennets find a large, unusual animal track. Meanwhile, Cole's son Jackie (Chris Morrell) and Amanda go to a gold mine to visit Jackie's friend Billy but find him missing. Jackie finds more of the animal tracks in Billy's shed, while Amanda goes into the mine and runs into an enormous rabbit with blood on its face. Screaming in terror, she runs from the mine.
Mutilated bodies begin to crop up around town, including Billy, a truck driver, and a family of four. Elgin, the Bennets, Cole, and Cole's two ranch hands, Frank (Henry Wills) and Jud (Chuck Hayward), go to the mine to try to kill the rabbits with explosives. As Elgin and Cole set charges on top of the mine, Roy and Frank enter the shaft to get pictorial evidence. Outside, a rabbit surfaces and attacks Jud before Gerry can shoot it. Roy and Frank escape the rabbits in the mine and run outside as the explosives are detonated.
The explosives fail to kill the rabbits, and that night they attack Cole's ranch, killing Jud while Cole, Frank, Jackie, and Cole's housekeeper escape into the storm shelter. The rabbits make their way to the small town of Galanos, killing everyone they find before taking refuge in the buildings for the day. In the morning, Gerry and Amanda leave to avoid the coming press but get stuck along a sandy stretch of road. Roy and Elgin update Sheriff Cody (Paul Fix) on the situation and, after realizing the rabbits have escaped the mine, call in the National Guard. As night falls, the rabbits leave Galanos to continue making their way to the main town, Ajo, killing everything in sight. Cole proposes using a half-mile wide stretch of electrified railroad track as a fence to contain and kill the rabbits. They recruit a large group of people at a drive in theater to help herd the rabbits with their car lights, with assistance from the machine gun fire of the National Guard.
Thousands of rabbits make their way into the trap, where they are shot and electrocuted. At the end of the film, Cole tells Roy that normal rabbits, as well as coyotes, have returned to the ranch.
Cast and Crew
- Stuart Whitman as Roy Bennett
- Janet Leigh as Gerry Bennett
- Rory Calhoun as Cole Hillman
- DeForest Kelley as Elgin Clark
- Paul Fix as Sheriff Cody
- Melanie Fullerton as Amanda Bennett
- Chris Morrell as Jackie Hillman
- Chuck Hayward as Jud
- Henry Wills as Frank
- Francesca Jarvis as Mildred
- William Elliott as Dr. Leopold
- The movie includes a scene at a drive-in movie theater which is showing another MGM offering entitled Every Little Crook and Nanny, which is a 1972 comedy about a British nanny (Lynn Redgrave) who plots to kidnap the son of a mob boss (Victor Mature). Antics ensue.