Blu-ray Review: Night of the Lepus



During a recent episode of Svengoolie on ME-TV, the horror host made his pick for the dumbest giant animals terrorizing a town. He swore nothing could go beyond Night of the Lepus which featured rabbits on a rampage. During the 1970s, the movies about wild creatures attacking humanity packed cars into the drive-ins. Grizzly bears, killer whales and giant ants proved man was not at the top of the food chain as they munched away at townspeople. Every new a new animal would go wild. It was kinda like how Marvel movies are now. Each Monday some kid on the bus would tell you about the horror that terrorized the local cinderblock cinema in town. While we shivered at takes of huge rats and killer bees, the concept of giant rabbits eating your face was just too peculiar. You can almost doubt that this film actually existed and might have just been something he’d read in a Mad Magazine knock off like Cracked. For a while it was easy to second guess the existence of the film since reportedly it never came out on VHS. The DVD didn’t finally pop out of hole until 2005. This proved there was a film about giant killer giant rabbits with recognizable stars. Now Night of the Lepus comes to Blu-ray so you can get the detail of the huge hares.

Rabbits seem sweet, but they have been a blight on certain places. The rabbits eat all the vegetation and dig holes to destroy the land. Australia went to extremes to eliminate the bunnies. So when rabbits become an issue on a ranch near a small town in Arizona, this is treated seriously by rancher Cole Hillman (Motel Hell‘s Rory Calhoun). Why the explosion? Turns out there’s a bad side to wiping out the local coyote population. He doesn’t want to go extreme with poison since that will screw up the land for his cattle. He seeks a “natural cure” via advice from college president Elgin Clark (Star Trek‘s DeForest Kelley). This leads to scientists Roy (Omega Cop‘s Stuart Whitman) and Gerry Bennett (Psycho‘s Janet Leigh) visiting the land to capture a few rabbits for an experiment. They go back to the lab and try out an experimental serum that should “natural” stop the rabbits from breeding like rabbits. They also have a control group. Quickly they discover the serum is causing abnormally fast growth. What they don’t notice is that Bennett’s daughter Amanda (Melanie Fullerton) has swapped a serum treated rabbit with a non-treated rabbit and adopted it as a pet. That’s normally not bad, but the kid loses the rabbit back on Hillman’s ranch. What can go wrong there? A few weeks later, there’s a generation of bunnies the size of VW Rabbits and they’re not longer happy eating carrots and lettuce. They want human flesh.

Night of the Lepus tries its best to be convincing instead of campy in the acting department. There’s no deliberate winking at the camera like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Whitman isn’t the crazy scientist looking for a cure. Although he royally screws up by letting a kid in the laboratory with access to the test rabbits. There special effects crew on the other hand is working with a different attitude. Most of the time they try their best to superimpose the huge rabbits into the scenes. But then they go completely weird with the train models and tiny houses that get torn apart by a lepus stampede. You can see their paws on Astroturf. There’s even a few instances of guys in Easter bunny suits smashing against objects. The high resolution will make these moments way too obvious. There’s a lot of blood and chewed body part so this isn’t for small kids The slack effects adds to the fun when you have a few friends over for a movie night. After being told for so long about Night of the Lepus, the film lives up to the strange hype. You get to see top notch stars doing their best to avoid being eaten by giant bunnies.though. What more can you want to fear from nature?

The video is 1.78.1 anamorphic. The transfer is a 2K scan from the interpostive. The details look sharp even if effects are rather shaggy. You will see the Astroturf clearly. Audio is DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo. You will hear the sounds of bunnies attacking.

Audio Commentaries are from two writers. Lee Gambin dips into his expertise found in the book Massacred By Mother Nature: Exploring The Natural Horror Film. He likes the film and doesn’t view junk. He does point out the book that Lepus is based on has nothing to do with the film. Russell Dyball is a pop culture historian eager to give background on the actors and filmmakers.

Theatrical Trailer (1:45) shows the horror and hides the fact that the monsters are rabbits. Unless you know what Lepus means.

TV Spot (0:22) wants you to get scared.

Radio Spot (0:34) warns us without naming the monsters.

Image gallery (4:46) are pictures to promote the film.

Scream Factory presents Night of the Lepus. Directed by William F. Claxton. Screenplay by: Don Holliday & Gene R. Kearney Starring: Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun and DeForrest Kelley. Rated: PG. Running Time: 88 minutes. Released: June 12, 2018.

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