Night of the Lepus (aKa Rabbits) is a 1972 horror film directed by William F. Claxton (Little House on the Prairie, Half Past Midnight, Rockabilly Baby, & Fangs of the Wild). Claxton was mainly known for directing Westerns & Television. It’s based on the 1964 science fiction novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon. They used domestic rabbits filmed against miniature models & actors dressed in rabbit costumes for the attack scenes. MGM originally wanted to keep the animals a secret so they changed the title but they later on gave out rabbit’s foot promotional items for the feature. It had an estimated budget of $900,000 & it made $3,711,923 worldwide at the box office. It never released on VHS here & it didn’t get a home video release until 2005. It’s been made fun & laughed at on Rifftrax featuring Mystery Science Theater 3000 members.
Rancher Cole Hillman (played by: Rory Calhoun from Motel Hell, Roller Blade Warriors, Revenge of Bigfoot, & Adventure Island) is having problems so he seeks the help of Elgin Clark (played by: DeForest Kelley from the Star Trek franchise) to take care of his rabbit overpopulation issues. Cole didn’t want to poison the animals so he didn’t want to use the previous help he had for coyotes. Elgin says he knows who can handle this situation so he goes to researchers Roy (played by: Stuart Whitman from Eaten Alive, Guyana: Cult of the Damned, Mean Johnny Barrows, & Crazy Mama) & Gerry Bennett (played by: Janet Leigh from Psycho, The Fog, Halloween H20, & Touch of Evil). The Bennett’s daughter Amanda (played by: Melanie Fullerton from To Rome with Love) becomes attached to their first test subject. They notice large animal tracks soon after near them. Mysterious attacks start happening & people are found in bad shape. This puts fear in the community. Frank (played by: Henry Wills from Drum, In like Flint, & Showdown) & Jud (played by: Chuck Hayward from Alien Nation, Nightfall , & Joe Kidd) tried to take matters in their own hands but it proves to be a huge mistake. Sheriff Cody (played by: Paul Fix from El Dorado, To Kill a Mockingbird, & Giant) is determined to fix this crazy scenario so he calls the National Guard. Everyone comes together to battle these vicious creatures that’s making their town less populated since their arrival. What have they created? Is it too late to eliminate these fast growing mutated monsters?
I realize that Night of the Lepus is considered one of those “so bad it’s good” type of films but I honestly don’t agree with that statement when it comes to this feature. Look at the talented cast & crew involved in this. It really elevated the production for this type of film. Everyone performed like it was a normal project for this. No one was hammy or over the top when it came to this killer animals flick. It helps it out & the end result is definitely way better than expected. I know this isn’t saying much because this particular sub genre is very small but this is the best killer rabbit movie that I’ve ever seen! It’s full of entertainment & I had so much fun with this one. For it’s budget & it’s age I thought the effects used in Lepus were really good for what they had to work with. It’s much more brutal than I thought it would be. It had some nice gore & it would make any horror fan happy. Never judge a book by it’s cover is the perfect statement for something like this because it’s reputation is far worse than what it actually is. I had low expectations & I ended up being very satisfied with the final product. It’s a silly feature but it’s one of those films I can watch over & over. The replay value is strong on this. Check it out!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation. This new 1080p (1.85:1) 2K transfer from Warner Bros looks great & the colors really pop out on this. This production has never been this detailed when it comes to the picture. This early 70s film has barely had a home video history so this is a welcomed surprise & it’s the best it’s ever looked! The English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA is better than expected for it’s age. It’s real clean & clear plus it even has some amped up moments that add to the entertainment. Overall, I am very impressed with both technical aspects of this older catalog title. I am looking forward to more collaborations between Scream Factory & Warner Bros because so far it’s a top notch combination especially for material like this!
Let’s discuss the special features on this release from Scream Factory. Audio commentary with Massacred By Mother Nature: Exploring The Natural Horror Film author Lee Gambin. I’ve heard a few other tracks by this guy & he is always well informed. For being a solo track, he keeps it flowing & it has a nice pace to it. He says he hates the term “it’s so bad it’s good”. He goes into great detail about various cast & crew members. He talks about their other work & what they did on this feature. He mentions he doesn’t like Mystery Science Theater 3000. He chats about the social commentary of the film & the original book. He brings up the killer animal genre & goes over it during the feature. A popular subject with him is Stephen King’s Cujo since he wrote the book Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making of Cujo it’s not a big surprise. He loves bringing up that film on audio tracks. It has a 2nd Audio Commentary with pop culture historian Russell Dyball. He starts out with a few jokes but gets pretty serious about this project after that. He goes into major detail about the cast & crew for this production. As far as letting you know about the news anchor’s accomplishments & roles he inspired. He talks about the director unfamiliarity of the genre since he was mainly directing Television & Westerns back then. He thinks maybe his work on the Twilight Zone helped him get this gig. He chats about the promotional campaign for this. This is vastly different from the other audio track so it’s a nice companion piece to it as an extra. I was a little worried when I see similar people were doing the same stuff for this & I didn’t want to hear a repeat soon after. I was happy to discover they both have their own unique styles & it’s a different experience for each one. You learn a good amount from both Lee Gambin & Russell Dyball about Night of the Lepus. You also get a bunch of promotional material for the film which include Theatrical Trailer, & Television Spot, Radio Spot, & almost 5 minute Image Gallery! I personally really enjoyed this flick & I highly recommend this new blu ray release from Scream Factory especially if you are into the killer animal or nature gone wrong genres.