Night of the Lepus (1972) (part 5 of 10)
Cut to a forensics investigator, who also happens to be the only black guy in the movie, but luckily for him, it’s already too late to be the first one to die. He’s examining something under a microscope, while Sheriff Cody and a deputy watch from behind. The deputy refers to this guy as “Mr. Leopold”, and he has this to say.
Golly gee whiz! You don’t say! It’s like an episode of CSI, only excruciatingly lame! And I really have to wonder why Mr. Leopold thinks the trained law enforcement agents he’s talking to don’t already know all this stuff.
The deputy soon brings things around to the case at hand, mentioning the destroyed tin cans and crates they found around the truck driver. “They were not opened with an axe,” Leopold says. “They’ve been gnawed.” The deputies gasp in disbelief.
“Gnawed,” Leopold reaffirms, “Chewed, bitten.” Then he asks them to wait while he gets his thesaurus. Okay, not really. He says that traces of saliva were found on all the objects listed above, and lets Sheriff Cody take a gander through his microscope, but I don’t know why, because all Cody sees is something that looks like a giant space amoeba.
“So, what have we got here?” Cody asks. “Vampires?”
Leopold replies, “Possibly.” [!] Possibly vampires? Really? I’ll admit, the actual culprit will turn out to be something much goofier, but how are vampires actually a possibility here?
However, in Leopold’s “expert” opinion, the only thing that could have done this much damage is a “saber-toothed tiger. As a matter of fact… a lot of ‘em!” And do I even need to mention that saber-toothed tigers have been extinct for thousands of years? Seriously, is this guy on drugs or what? I’m thinking these lines were meant to be delivered sarcastically or jokingly, but neither the director nor the actor realized it.
Cut to a motorcycle cop, speaking into his radio. The radio is covering his lips, but it’s pretty obvious his mouth isn’t moving and his lines were dubbed in later. He says, “This is Officer Hightower [!!]. I’m at the picnic grounds three miles east of the Hillman Ranch. I’ve never seen anything like this before!” Wow. Just… wow.
He says he’s discovered a family with two kids that’s been “horribly mutilated”. The camera pans slowly and deliberately across their bodies, revealing that in cop-speak, “horribly mutilated” pretty much means the same thing as “covered in fake blood”.
We leave this “horrific” sight and head over to the local university, where Roy and Gerry have met up with Elgin Clark. Also in attendance is Wheelchair Genius Guy, who gives them a little speech, apropos of nothing.
Unfortunately, I’m going to have an aneurysm if I try to make any sense out of that, so let’s just keep moving.
Roy protests that “rabbits as big and as ferocious as wolves” just aren’t “conceivable”. Wheelchair Genius Guy babbles incoherently some more about cells and DNA, until finally admitting that, yes, they may have “created the seeds for a mutated species!” Whoops. But hey, we’ve all been there, am I right?
Roy isn’t convinced, however, because all they have to go on is Amanda’s claim that she saw giant rabbits. Oh, and six dead bodies, but who’s counting? He says the only thing to do now is to take a look around the area. You know, see if they spot any giant bunnies.
Gerry pipes up, suggesting they alert Sheriff Cody. Whoa, whoa, slow down there, sister. If they immediately alert law enforcement, how will they pointlessly drag out this movie by trying to deal with the bunnies themselves and screwing up big time?
Elgin doesn’t want to tell the sheriff, because he’s afraid of the “sensational publicity that would come down on the university” if word got out. And that would totally be the end of their hard-earned rep as a party school, that’s for sure. Elgin doesn’t want to reveal anything until they know what the “score” is. Roy, being a scientist and everything, agrees that withholding information from the public about a potentially deadly animal menace is a perfectly reasonable course of action.
He tells Gerry to call Cole Hillman and have him get together some poison and dynamite. He also tells Gerry to tell Cole to bring along a couple of red shirts, oops, I mean rabbit meals, oops, I mean ranch hands to help out too. Remarkably, Gerry doesn’t tell Roy that he’s got all ten of his fingers and he can dial a phone his own damn self.
After she leaves to again run errands for Roy, Wheelchair Genius Guy asks Roy to bring back one of the giant rabbits alive. Fantastic idea, sir. I hereby remove the term “Genius” from this guy’s nickname. Roy’s response is to silently stare at him until we mercifully cut to the next scene. And that’s the last we’ll be seeing of Wheelchair… Guy, which means his entire purpose was to give Roy a mysterious serum and make a nonsensical speech about birth defects. If there’s a character in this movie crying out to become rabbit fodder, it’s this guy, but sorry, no dice.
And now, all of our main characters are driving out to Captain Billy’s mineshaft. Need I mention that, even though a dead body was just found here by a sheriff’s deputy, the area is completely open and unprotected and free of police? Boy, if only the cops had Leopold around to explain basic crime scene procedures.
As they pull up, there are some laughably “menacing” shots of the bunnies looking out of the mine.
Our heroes step up to the mine and see giant bunny tracks, and Roy declares that these tracks “certainly weren’t made by human beings.” Wow, really, professor? He asks if there are any other entrances to the mine, and Cole mentions that up above, there’s a “vertical shaft” that’s been closed up for years. Roy tells Elgin to grab a red shirt and head on up there.
Once they’re up above the mineshaft, Elgin and Red Shirt #1 spy three holes. Elgin contacts Gerry by walkie-talkie just so he can tell her, “I’m up on top. Let me speak to Roy, over.” Women are completely useless, over.
Roy gets on the walkie-talkie and tells Elgin to dynamite the holes. We then cut to a shot of Elgin and Red Shirt #1 from a vantage point down inside the hole, accomplished via some really shitty greenscreen effects. This shot actually makes me feel like I’m about to emerge from the birth canal into Dr. McCoy’s waiting arms.
Elgin tells Roy to hold on, and then—just for kicks, I guess—he drops a rock down the hole. When it lands about ten seconds later, we get our first sample of the sound effect that will be used to simulate the presence of giant mutant bunnies. It’s made up of a low growling, a high-pitched squeal, heavy breathing, and a sound like bats flapping their wings. And underneath it all is an electronic grumbling that sounds like tape loops left over from the Dark Side of the Moon sessions. Huh. So that’s what rabbits sound like when you supersize them. I always had a hunch.
Roy overhears these noises on the radio, then repeats that Elgin should lay his dynamite now so they can all set off their charges at once. Elgin turns to Red Shirt #1 and says words I never thought I’d hear coming out of Dr. McCoy’s mouth: “We’ve got three holes to blow!” Whoa there. I think one hole is more than enough to blow, thank you very much. Though, let’s face it, they didn’t call him “Bones”, plural, for nothing.