Night of the Lepus (1972) (part 10 of 10)
Now comes the most useless scene in the whole movie, and that’s saying a lot. More slow-motion bunnies run down a paved road somewhere, until they come across stock footage of cattle grazing. That’s right: Someone thought the “bunnies attack a stampede of horses” scene was so great that they put in a repeat of it, only using cattle this time.
Jesus, there’s so much wrong with this sequence that I hardly know where to begin. First of all, they’re reusing (for the third time!) the shots of bunnies leaping off a cliff to attack the horses. This causes the stock footage cattle to freak out and start a stock footage stampede. And how do I know it’s stock footage? Once again, because it was clearly shot during the day.
But if that’s not enough of a clue for you, it appears the footage came from two different sources, because half the time the cattle are bulls (with horns), and the other half they’re cows (no horns).
This thrilling scene comes to a climax when… well, when we cut away to something else. Seriously, was there a point to any of that? I mean, could it be any more obvious they were trying to pad out the movie without shooting any new footage?
Cut back to the railroad crossing. In a pretty lame attempt to add more suspense to the goings-on, there’s supposedly a “slow freight on the line”, and the deputies can’t electrify the tracks until the train passes. But according to what the dispatcher tells Sheriff Cody, the train will probably cross the switch in five minutes. Whew, thank god. The tension was nearly unbearable.
Cut to National Guardsmen again addressing the line of civilian vehicles. And every time somebody gets on a bullhorn in this movie, it’s pure comedic gold, and the current speech is no exception. To wit:
Panic? Machine gun and rifle fire, you say? Monsters, you say? Come on, who would panic?
As the bunnies march forward, a line of “guardsmen” hunker down on the ground with their machine guns at the ready. They catch sight of the bunnies and some lame dialogue is dubbed in, along the lines of “Look at the size of them!” and “I can’t believe it!” and “Somebody get my agent on the phone!”
Meanwhile, Sheriff Cody is overseeing the work to electrify the tracks. It involves connecting the tracks to some power lines, and some other nonsense that’s not worth getting into. Just then, Elgin shows up, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom. He informs the sheriff that he’s heard from Roy, and that his family is safe, and also that he saw “thousands” of rabbits headed their way.
Throughout all of this, there are frantic radio reports in the background about the killer rabbits, including a report that mentions “five dead” in a trailer. Which would bring Amanda’s confirmed kills up to thirteen. And that’s only the ones we know about!
Roy’s helicopter arrives, and he jumps out and signals to the pilot to take Gerry and Kill-manda to a safe location. By which I mean, a location where the rest of the town will be safe from them. Just as the helicopter flies out of the frame, the slow freight rolls into view. As soon as it passes, Cody gets on his radio and yells at someone to “Turn on the pow-ah!”
Sparks start flying off the tracks, and the slow-motion bunnies make their long awaited appearance. Someone yells “Fire!” and all the guardsmen start blasting away. No, we don’t see any bunnies get hit by gunfire in this sequence. I’m guessing they ran out of squibs.
What follows next is a sequence of split-second cuts that would give Baz Luhrman a migraine. We cut from the guardsmen to Sheriff Cody, then to the rabbits, then to the parked cars, then back to Cody, then back to guardsmen. In the meantime, radio reports in the background promise us that the rabbits are “getting closer” and “it won’t be long!” Perhaps this was a last-ditch attempt to persuade the only two people left in the theater who hadn’t walked out.
Eventually, the rabbits run up to the track and start electrocuting themselves.
The guardsmen continue blasting away, and amidst the chaos, we see Cody and Cole firing at the rabbits. Heck, even Roy and Elgin get their licks in.
Meanwhile, somebody lights up a blowtorch and starts setting bunnies on fire. Now, that was just uncalled for. Though it certainly is a good way to reuse the footage where Gerry used a safety flare on the rabbits.
Cartoon electrical arcs are drawn around bunny puppets being tossed around a scale model of the railroad tracks. Meanwhile, what’s supposed to be a giant bunny—but what really looks like a guy in the Bigfoot costume from the Patterson film—leaps on top of Roy. I guess this bunny was sick of all the pussy gunfire and decided it was time to go mano a lepus.
Luckily, Cole shoots the bunny and saves Roy. At least, I’m assuming that’s what happens. All we got was a shot of Cole firing his gun before they immediately cut to something else. And given the random editing in this scene, pretty much all we do here is “cut to something else”. Seeing as how the editor was clearly on some serious drugs, I’m kind of surprised he didn’t accidentally splice in any frames upside down or backwards.
Soon, bunnies are frantically hopping around with sparks and flames superimposed all around them.
We also keep getting random shots of a little girl in a blue dress in one of the civilian cars. I really have no idea why they keep cutting to her, but it’s damn annoying.
The light show goes on for an inordinately long time, probably more than long enough to induce seizures in Japanese schoolchildren. After a few more minutes, everything finally dies down and we see a big pile of dead bunnies with smoke rising off them. Yep, they’re all dead. Every last single bunny. No way, no how, did any of them survive all that. And I still think this sounds like darn good eatin’.
Of course, perhaps we aren’t supposed to remember that Roy said there were “thousands” of them headed towards town. Are we really supposed to believe we just saw “thousands” of rabbits running across the tracks and getting fried? It seems unlikely. I realize bunnies aren’t that smart, but wouldn’t some of them have at least enough sense to run in the opposite direction once they started seeing thousands of their friends burst into flames?
Regardless, in the next shot it’s daytime, and apparently some time has passed. Cole is standing in a field at the university, watching Roy and Elgin and some others play a pickup game of touch football. Roy catches the football, but instead of going for a TD, he runs over to talk to Cole. Geez, at least call a time out or something.
The two men reminisce for a while. (“Hey, remember that time we fought those giant mutant killer bunnies?” “Yeah… good times.”) Cole tells Roy that the events at the ranch have “set me back a few years”, which is kind of an odd way of putting things. Will it take him a few years to hire new red shirts? However, according to Cole, things are starting to return to normal. He says his son Jackie has been seeing some new rabbit holes, but it’s “nothing like it was before.”
“Well,” Roy says, “Survival of the fittest. That’s only fair, I suppose.” I’d be inclined to agree, if I knew what the hell he was talking about.
Cole bids him farewell, but not before inviting Roy and his family up to the ranch. Roy accepts, and Cole says, “You got a deal!” But I don’t think I heard what the other end of that deal was. I’m also left wondering if this bit of small talk was scripted to be just as awkward and uncomfortable as it turned out.
Over at the ranch, Cole and the Bennetts are walking through a field, when suddenly Jackie and Amanda go running off together. This is all backed by flowery “coming of age” acoustic guitar music, so I don’t really want to know what they’re driving at here.
And you might be thinking now would be good time for Amanda to tearfully confess to releasing the serum-filled rabbit, and express deep remorse at the death and devastation that she almost singlehandedly caused. Oddly, that never happens. The movie just ends with the two kids running past the camera, and we freeze frame on bunnies in the field.
So what’s the moral of this story, kids? That’s right, when you’ve done something really bad, just keep your mouth shut, even while whole towns are being slaughtered, and everything’ll work out fine.
Also, there’s a bonus moral for kids who dream of working in the film industry one day: Don’t do drugs. Seriously, kids, don’t do them. Especially when your job is approving scripts for a once-great movie studio.
BONUS! Watch the incredible trailer for Night of the Lepus!
Watch the trailer that does everything possible to avoid actually showing killer bunnies! Hear the voiceover guy come up with yet another pronunciation of “Lepus”!