Night of the Lepus (1972) (part 3 of 10)

Down at Cole’s ranch, Roy examines a caged rabbit and notes this isn’t a breed that’s indigenous to the area. Cole explains that another rancher in the area used to raise domesticated rabbits, but there was a fire and about “a couple o’ hundred of them got away!”

That’s right: Domesticated rabbits. The rabbits that we’ll soon be seeing grow to giant size aren’t even wild rabbits, which might have at least stood a chance of looking scary. In fact, the giant rabbits will look no different from bunnies that you might buy at the pet store. Ultimately, this one tiny detail will account for almost all of the movie’s unintentional hilarity.

Night of the Lepus (1972) (part 3 of 10)

I’ll just assume that, somewhere between the director and the animal wranglers, there was a serious breakdown in communication, and by the time they realized they were about to make a movie about killer Easter bunnies, it was too late to turn back. And so, they tossed in a line after the fact about domesticated rabbits escaping, and in the process, helpfully contradicted Cole’s earlier statement about the rabbit plague being caused by a dearth of coyotes. That was a nice touch.

Gerry says that these rabbits must be “mongrels”. Ouch! I think you just hurt the rabbits’ feelings, Gerry. Don’t be surprised when this comes back to bite you in the ass later. Literally.

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Cole brings up the rabbit plagues in Australia and New Zealand, and asks the scientist couple how those countries dealt with them. Roy, apparently not knowing the answer, just makes up shit off the top of his head. He tells Cole that they used poison to get rid of the rabbits, but the poison also killed all the birds. In turn, this resulted in a plague of grasshoppers. Say what? Honestly, I have no idea where he’s getting any of this from. Wikipedia’s your friend, Roy!

See, what actually happened was the government introduced a virus to Australia and New Zealand that only affects rabbits, resulting in something like an 80% drop in the rabbit population. I guess Roy doesn’t think those results were good enough, because he’s come up with a totally new plan for dealing with the rabbits: He’ll use hormones to disrupt their breeding cycles. Boy, that sure seems impractical and stupid!

Roy asks if he can take some bunnies to his lab to run some tests, and Cole says there are so many on his ranch that Roy can help himself. Remember that.

Meanwhile, Amanda is bonding with Cole’s son and petting a pony, saying she wishes she had one, too. Cole’s Son says his dad bought the pony just for him. Well, lah dee dah, kid. I think we all know it was just done out of guilt over putting a bullet in the head of your previous pet.

Caption contributed by Albert

“Sorry, Amanda, I guess your dad doesn’t really love you!”

Cut back to Roy and Cole loading up the truck. Cole goes to pick up a cage full of rabbits, but jerks his hand back. He says one of the rabbits bit him, which means they’re already displaying their bloodthirsty tendencies. You know, those bloodthirsty tendencies they picked up in the pet store.

Roy tells Cole to get that finger looked at, and in a line of dialogue that clearly wasn’t meant to be spoken by an actual human being, he adds, “The bite of the Lepus, that’s the Latin word for rabbit, can be dangerous.” [?!] Yeah… what? I can understand wanting to constantly mention the Latin name to explain the title, but could there have possibly been a more awkward way to shoehorn it in?

Cut to a hallway on the college campus, where Roy is speaking with Dr. Dirkson, this movie’s obligatory Wheelchair Genius Guy. They make some small talk about the rabbit outbreak, and Roy promises to keep Dr. Dirkson informed of his progress.

Caption contributed by Albert

“Those damn bunnies chewed off my legs!”

Roy then walks into a lab and goes to a desk, while Gerry, now clad in a white lab coat, is examining several stacked cages of rabbits. Amanda is also here, but unfortunately, not wearing a tiny little white lab coat of her own. She asks, “Mommy, what’s a control group?” Ah, that old question. I’ve always wondered, at what age are you supposed to talk to your children about the scientific method?

Gerry begins to explain the concept of “control groups” to her daughter and us dopey non-scientists in the audience. Suddenly, she notices something wrong with one rabbit, so she calls Roy over. Amanda asks what the problem is, and Gerry explains, “Well, we were trying to make Jack a little more like Jill, and Jill a little more like Jack, so they wouldn’t keep having such large families!” And I can’t think of a better way to screw up your kids for life than by implying you’re creating gay bunnies.

Roy roughly manhandles some obviously sedated rabbits while spouting off lots of technobabble. He says they can’t “shoot [the bunnies] full of hormones without sending their nervous systems into shock! It could mean months developing the right lab procedure!” Uh… come again?

He then proclaims that “nothing seems to work” and storms off. Gotta love that Movie Scientist can-do attitude.

Caption contributed by Albert

You’re gonna pay for this, Roy. Mark my words.

However, Roy, in his languid way, eventually comes around and reenters the frame with a small bottle. He says he got a unique serum from Genius Wheelchair Guy, and as he loads up a syringe with the stuff, he says to no one in particular, “I wish I knew what the effects of this serum would mean!” Wow, there’s nothing quite like seeing a professional scientist in action, is there? I mean, I almost feel like I’m watching a documentary or something. No idea what a serum does? Just shoot up some rabbits, pop some popcorn, sit back, and see what happens!

Roy tells Gerry to get him a “clean rabbit”, and when she pulls one out, Amanda protests, “Not that one, Mommy, it’s my favorite!” Remarkably, she says this without moving her lips. I guess she’s telepathic or something. Unfortunately, it seems Roy and Gerry don’t share her psychic abilities, because they completely ignore her. I kid, of course; the line was obviously dubbed in later. But watching the movie more closely, it appears that nearly all of Amanda’s lines were dubbed in later. Weird.

Roy injects the rabbit with the serum, explaining lackadaisically that it’s “the villain in certain birth defects. Causes hereditary changes.” He expositionizes that the effects can be transmitted, resulting in the equivalent of injecting “ten to fifteen thousand wild rabbits!” Wild rabbits? I thought they were domesticated? Looks like a certain director of a certain killer bunny movie forgot to dub over a certain line in post!

Meanwhile, Amanda can only watch in horror, clearly traumatized by this brutal injection procedure. That is, when she’s not staring directly into the camera, apparently looking to the director and/or her stage mom for her cues.

Roy expositionizes some more that if they can inject fifty rabbits with this stuff, it won’t take long to affect the entire population. Then he repeats this about three or four times, with slightly different wording. Okay, Roy, we got it. All it takes is one rabbit to affect thousands. Foreshadowing received.

The phone rings and Roy walks off to answer it. Meanwhile, Gerry puts the rabbit back in the cage and starts to comfort Amanda, until Roy calls her over. And now Amanda takes advantage of both parents being distracted, and removes the newly injected rabbit from its cage and switches it with one of the rabbits from the control group, making sure to look directly into the camera the whole time.

You see, the rabbit is her “favorite”, which is why she… she… actually, this makes no sense at all. If she’s trying to save the rabbit from being experimented on, she’s a little late.

Night of the Lepus (1972) (part 3 of 10)

Meanwhile, Roy and Gerry continue their phone conversation, utterly oblivious to the swap, despite being just a few feet away in the same room. As the switch is taking place, we hear Cole’s voice on the other end of the call. It seems he’s calling to let them know he has more rabbits for them to use down at his ranch. Okay, but given his ranch is overrun with the critters, and he already told them that two scenes ago, this doesn’t exactly seem like urgent news that necessitated a phone call.

And why did Gerry have to run over to listen in on the call? I mean, it’s almost like Cole’s phone call served no purpose other than to distract Roy and Gerry long enough for Amanda to switch rabbits. But that’s crazy talk!

However, Roy’s unconscious sense of irony is still working at full steam, because for no reason whatsoever, he muses that they’ve got to “keep a tight control on these test rabbits! Heaven help us, should they get away before we know the effects of this new serum!” Hmm, maybe you should have, I don’t know, asked what the serum does? I’m sure Wheelchair Genius Guy would have been happy to tell you.

Gerry says she’ll head back down to Cole’s ranch and pick up more bunnies. And for no particular reason, she decides to bring Amanda with her, and Roy thinks this is a good idea.

But first, Amanda pouts that she wants a rabbit, and Daddy said she could have one. Gerry asks, “One from the control group?” and Roy nods. I know you totally didn’t see this coming, but Gerry just happens to reach for the very rabbit that was just injected, the same one that Amanda swapped with another rabbit. D’oh!

Night of the Lepus (1972) (part 3 of 10)

As Amanda holds her new serum-injected pet, Gerry tells her to rub its foot. “See what kind of luck that brings us,” she says. “As a matter of fact, rub all four of ‘em!” Sorry, Janet, but I think your luck ran out the minute you signed on to this movie.

Multi-Part Article: Night of the Lepus (1972)

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  • Guest

    Wikipedia is indeed your friend, and so is a Latin dictionary. One of the things I always found funny was calling a movie about killer rabbits “Night of the Hare”, since that is what lepus means. But I suppose “Night of the Lepus” sounds more scary than “Night of the Cuniculus”. And since the bunnies are domesticated we may take an imaginary leap and correcting the scientific name of the creature which is oryctolagus cuniculus – admittedly that’s the European rabbit. But (thank you Wikipedia!), since there are about 20 species of rabbits spread over 8 genera, we are on somewhat shaky ground here, except for the fact, that every genus name ends in -lagus.

  • Jeff

    I want to thank you for this most wonderful review. Every once in a while, for the last several years, when I get into a bit of a “blah” mood, all I have to do is read this article and I’ll laugh hysterically throughout. Well done in making a review that’s infinitely better than the film it lambasted.

  • Bun Bun

    “Dig that hole..” I love Albert. Really. And second Jeff’s comments, below.

  • drdvdplayerhandbook

    “My fashion sense is dead, Jim.”
    A missed opportunity to go with the more classic “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a fashion designer!”