Night Of The Lepus DVD Review
Written by Peter West
DVD released by Warner Home Video
Directed by William F. Claxton
Written by Russell Braddon (novel) and Don Holliday (screenplay)
1972, Region 1 (NTSC), 88 minutes, Rated PG
DVD released on October 4th, 2005
Stuart Whitman as Roy Bennett
Janet Leigh as Gerry Bennett
Rory Calhoun as Cole Hillman
DeForest Kelley as Elgin Clark
Paul Fix as Sheriff Cody
Melanie Fullerton as Amanda Bennett
Chris Morrell as Jackie Hillman
Night of the Lepus starts out with a commentator discussing the rabbit problem in Australia. The story then shifts to rural Arizona and rancher Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun) who's having his herd threatened by the overgrazing of an out of control rabbit population. Enter the local doctor Elgin Clark (played by who else than DeForest Kelly) who enlists the help of a couple of researcher Roy and Gerry Bennett (played by film tough guy Stuart Whitman and scream queen Janet Leigh). The Bennetts try hormone therapy on some test rabbits and wouldn't you know it, one of them is accidentally set loose by their daughter Amanda (who pays by having this as her last big role).
The freed rabbit does what all good rabbits do and soon there's a whole herd of overgrown killer rabbits! Soon the locals start getting all chewed up and it's up to Roy and Cole to warn the townspeople. As thousands of man-eating rabbits approach town, it's a battle of man versus lepus for their very existence. A true drive-in classic Night of the Lepus has been a long sought schlock classic whose time has finally arrived on DVD!
Night of the Lepus was one of the first of the "man versus nature" films of the early 70's that showed disastrous results of man's playing around with technology. These films packed in the drive-in theaters for a lot of years and no matter how bad the film, it made money! Night of the Lepus used the familiar method of taking "name" Hollywood actors whose star had faded and used their names to draw in the audiences. The producers hired a director that normally made TV westerns and in two or three weeks you had a film.
Night of the Lepus, though, has survived as a cult classic getting numerous airplay on cable stations like TBS and has regularly been part of a creature double feature. To enjoy this film in it's proper modern context, I of course watched this Saturday afternoon. While there's no scenes of the killer rabbits munching away on the humans (there was no money for that kind of special effect) there's plenty of gore in the aftermath of the killer rabbit's rampages. There's severed limbs and more blood than in a dozen normal PG rated horror theme films. So much so that in the UK they actually rated this one X at first!
If you want a film that is so bad that it's not that bad...Night of the Lepus is right up your alley! You can even watch it with your kids and not worry about them having nightmares. Yes, it's not a very good film, but heck I enjoyed watching it one more time in all of it's widescreen glory!
Video and Audio:
Presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer, Night of the Lepus has suffered a bit from the ravages of time. Some scenes are a little dirty and grainy, however the colors are all strong and vivid. Personally I think it's great that it's survived in as good a shape as it's in.
Warner has released this in it's original mono on a Dolby 1.0 track. The sound is free of hiss or distortion. The best way to watch this is to turn on your receiver's 5 or 7 channel stereo modes and listen away to the killer rabbit chomping away!
The only extra is a trailer that in pretty decent shape. It's enjoyable and is probably a lot scarier than the film! My rating 2/5
(Films that Peter West reviews are played on a Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi DVD player, viewed on a Mitsubishi WS-55413 HDTV and listened to on a THX Ultra 2 Pioneer Elite VSX-59TXi A/V Receiver through a 7.1 setup of JBL Northridge E series Speakers.)