Apr 29, 2018
Night of the Lepus (1972) (part 9 of 10)
In the next scene, it’s getting dark again. As expected, the slow-motion bunnies make another appearance, ready for another night of rampaging and mutilating. But wait, I thought this was the Night of the Lepus! I was promised just one night! So I guess the filmmakers were so incompetent, they couldn’t even get the title right.
The rabbits march in slow-mo out of Mildred’s general store, so I can only conclude that all the National Guard had to do was bomb the fuck out of that one building, and the movie would already be over. But instead of that sweet release, we watch as more slow-mo bunnies leap off a cliff, in a shot that was obviously lifted from the earlier scene where rabbits attacked Cole’s horses.
Then the bunnies run in slow-motion across a scale model bridge. And just like bombing that one store, it would appear that if they simply took out, or hell, just closed off this one bridge, things would pretty much be under control by now.
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Instead, we get to watch for several minutes as people run to various emergency vehicles, and police divert traffic out of the area. And to give us a sense of impending doom—or unending mirth, one or the other— this is all accompanied by several cutaway shots of slow-mo bunnies.
Sheriff Cody gets a call from the deputy who went to pick up Cole Hillman in Galanos. The deputy declares that the rabbits are right behind them, giving the filmmakers a prime opportunity to reuse the earlier shot of bunnies chasing Jud’s truck. The deputy says that at the speed they’re going, the bunnies will reach the town in forty or fifty minutes.
After a few more shots of slow-motion bunnies, MP Armband Guy tells Sheriff Cody that he doesn’t have enough manpower to stop this vicious bunny onslaught. Roy, of course, has the answer. He asks the sheriff to repeat his earlier comment about wanting a fence.
“Yeah,” Sheriff Cody says. “A fence about two miles long, and twenty feet high!” Actually, what he really asked for was a fence ten miles long, but close enough.
Roy turns to Elgin, asking how far the rabbits can travel with each stride. Being a university president and all, Elgin immediately knows the answer is four to five feet. Roy tells the sheriff to get the “railroad inspector” on the phone, and his dubbed-in voice says, “We’ll funnel them into a half-mile area at the tracks!” Ten miles long, two miles long, half a mile long… Hey, as long as it gets this movie over with that much sooner, I’m not complaining.
After stock footage of what looks like Navy SEALs landing in Laos, Roy gets on the phone with the railroad inspector, explaining his intentions to electrify the railroad tracks and fry the bunnies. And I gotta say, that sounds like darn good eatin’. The inspector, sounding a little drunk in this scene, says he’ll begin taking steps to implement this plan, though I can’t even fathom what those steps might be.
Cut to a drive-in movie theater screening a Tom and Jerry cartoon, with Tom and Jerry coincidentally being another MGM property. Ah, movie, why must you tease me with this all too brief appearance of actual entertainment?
An unmarked police car pulls into the lot with sirens blaring. The deputy parks his car directly under the screen, grabs a bullhorn, and delivers this little gem of a speech, which is really about the closest thing this movie has to memorable dialogue.
Deputy: Attention! Attention! Ladies and Gentleman, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way, and we desperately need your help! Roll up your windows. Turn on your lights and follow the police car at the entrance of the theater. Please keep calm and cooperate with the authorities. Do you read me?
The audience signals their comprehension of this utterly incomprehensible statement by honking their horns, and then the deputy tells them to move out. My, but the people in this town are adaptable. Really, it only took them like ten seconds to absorb the idea of “a herd of killer rabbits” and get fully onboard with the deputy’s plan.
And if you have any doubt this scene really happens, you can watch it for yourself here:
Meanwhile, back at the station, Sheriff Cody tells some of his men to head for the power station and wait for orders. He and Roy meet up with the car carrying Cole Hillman, and the two jump in and head to the railroad tracks.
On the ride over, Roy asks Sheriff Cody to find out if they’ve heard from his wife. Cody radios back to the station, and for some reason, the person who responds to his call is Elgin [?]. The hell? He’s the university president! He’s not even a cop! Is this how this stuff works? Can pretty much anyone walk in off the street and be a 911 dispatcher for the day?
As we get a close-up view of DeForest’s stylish neckerchief, he says he’s called the lodge and Gerry hasn’t arrived yet. Roy tells Sheriff Cody that he’s worried, which is followed by a reaction shot of Cody looking like he could not possibly give less of a shit.
Roy asks to have “that chopper” meet up with them at the railroad tracks so he can go look for Gerry and Amanda. Sheriff Cody immediately breaks out of his trance-like look of sheer boredom to say, “Why, shore!”
They get to the railroad tracks, where incredibly, Roy is dictating orders to the sheriff and Cole Hillman. He tells them to “throw power to both rails” as soon as the tracks are clear. Cole, who I assume could figure that part out on his own, assures Roy they have the situation well in hand, and tells him to go get in the helicopter and find his family. In other words, you’re not the boss of me, Roy Bennett, Movie Scientist or not.
Just before Roy takes off, Sheriff Cody hands him his gun. [?] Umm, Sheriff, I think you might be needing that later. You remember the herd of killer rabbits headed your way?
Heightening the tension (and the hilarity) are more slow-mo shots of the bunny herd approaching. Then another deputy with a bullhorn addresses a line of cars. “Leave your lights on!” he yells, Gestapo-like. “Line your cars up! Follow instructions from National Guardsmen!” You vill follow instructions from National Guardsmen, und you vill like it!
Another herd of bunnies slowly runs through the fog. The camera pulls back, showing us that they’re converging on Gerry and Amanda, who are still [!] trying to get their truck out of that rut. What the hell? The truck must have gotten stuck like twelve hours ago!
Gerry freezes when she hears growling noises. Sweeping her flashlight around, she finds that they’re surrounded by bloodthirsty rabbits. Of course, she’s a character we “care” about, so the bunnies can’t just instantly pounce on her and kill her like Mildred or Bubba or pretty much any other rabbit victim in this movie.
Gerry gently grabs Amanda and the two slowly back away. Amanda says, “Weird!” as if she’s just noticed an unexplained stain on her sock. Well, sure, Amanda, giant bloodthirsty rabbits are kind of weird. But you think she’d be a little more terrified, given how she went into shock after her first run-in with a big bunny.
Cut to Roy, up in the helicopter searching for them. He illuminates the horde of rabbits with a searchlight, and I must say he has quite the steady hand. I mean, it almost looks like a stage hand calmly shining a flashlight on some regular-sized bunnies. It’s pretty impressive.
Meanwhile, Gerry locks Amanda inside the camper, then gets safety flares from the glove compartment, while the sound of heavy breathing grows louder.
And then the bunnies attack, verrrrry slowly in slow motion, and Amanda screams, “Be careful!” I’m sure Gerry appreciates the concern, kid. Gerry lights up a flare, which frightens some of the rabbits away, and it couldn’t be more obvious this effect was achieved via terrorizing bunnies with a bright red light bulb. But not content to simply drive them away, Gerry tosses the flare into the pack, causing one rabbit to burst into flames. Laughably, it appears they’ve taken a dead stuffed rabbit (probably the same one used in the kitchen scene), set it on fire, and dragged it around on a string, scaring the crap out of all the real bunnies in the shot.
Gerry grabs another flare and continues to hold the bunnies at bay. A rather fake giant bunny paw swings into the shot, but Gerry deftly dodges it.
The camper is soon engulfed by the bright searchlight, and triumphant “heroic” music plays as Roy’s helicopter appears. Gerry retrieves her daughter, telling her “Everything’s alright. Daddy’s here!” Wait, how does she know who’s in the helicopter? For all she knows, some giant bunnies just learned how to fly the thing. Roy lands, driving all the rabbits away, and runs to embrace Gerry and Amanda.