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Rated PG
Copyright 1972 MGM
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 10 April 2006

The Characters:  

  • Cole Hillman - Rory Calhoun! The weathered old rancher who believes that nature's balance should be maintained. That is, until two-hundred pounds of man-eating rabbit tip the scales.
  • Roy Bennett - Stuart Whitman! Thoughtful scientist who believes children should be seen (when he lets them out of the cage) and not heard. He now works for a firm that makes traps to humanely electrocute rabbits.
  • Gerry Bennett - Janet Leigh! Also a scientist. She likes to color coordinate her outfits with Elgin.
  • Elgin Clark - DeForest Kelley! I cannot stop staring at the big, bushy moustache.
  • Amanda and Jackie - Daughter to the Bennetts and Cole's son, respectively. They cause the deaths of dozens of people.
  • Sheriff Cody - Gosh darned cotten-picken rodents! Somebody get me mah shotgun!
  • The National Guard - The only military organization in the history of man to be outflanked and outmatched by rabbits.
  • A Horde of Giant Rabbits - With names like "Babs the Destroyer" and "Ginger the Merciless," they are bent on world domination. Mankind is saved by the muse of Nikola Tesla.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

Yet another legendary bad movie my friends, because this is the story of how Doctor McCoy helped save the world from a herd of giant killer rabbits.

The film opens with scenes and narration about plagues of rabbits that destroyed parts of Australia and the American southwest. Some of the scenes are pretty funny, because you have a circle of men holding large sticks slowly closing in on frantic rabbits. You can safely assume that they were not there to pet the bunnies. Anyway, this suddenly switches to scenes of a rabbit roundup filmed for the movie. The great thing about those is that all the rabbits, with their dark fur and plump bodies, are obviously domesticated ones. This is later explained away as a result of a fire that destroyed a local rabbit farm and accidentally released them onto the prairie. Still, not exactly the sort of rabbits that flourish in the wild, prosperous though the children of El-Ahrairah may be.

Just a few minutes into the film we encounter the first casualty, which is Cole's horse. The poor animal breaks its leg in a rabbit hole. The rancher then puts the horse out of its misery with his rifle. What would have been smart is if Cole had dismounted and led his steed through the rabbit infested area. There are literally dozens of the furry critters crouched around big piles of dirt; the horse breaking its leg was no surprise. After his walk back to the house, Mr. Hillman resolves to call Eglin and see if there is some way to control the rabbits without resorting to poison.

Enter the Bennetts, who are entomologists. Despite the apparent mismatch of specialties, they are enlisted by Eglin to help address the rabbit problem. What do they use? An experimental DNA-altering serum supplied by another scientist. Holy cow! Poison is evil, but a little harmless genetic tampering sure is environmentally friendly. Amanda is distraught when daddy gives her favorite lab bunny an injection. She switches rabbits when the adults are not looking and takes the gene-seeded monster along with her to Hillman's ranch. There she runs afoul of Jackie, who yells that he hates rabbits. The young boy pulls the bunny away from Amanda, then lightly sets it down so it can dive down a nearby hole.

You know, I think that Cole could have handled his problem without poison if his son was less of a wuss. Give most country boys a .22 rifle and plenty of ammo and they will put a dent in the rabbit population for you.

Also, this is yet another deadly chain of events that is set in motion by the actions of a researcher's kid. Scientists who work with anything living, including viruses and mysterious organisms from outer space, should be childless. It just makes sense.

An indeterminate period of time passes before people start being killed by giant slow motion rabbits. They eat a refrigeration truck driver, along with the contents of his truck, and even a group of people at a picnic ground. Well, "eat" may be a misnomer. What we see is people smeared with thick red paste and their clothes ripped, but never anything else. Despite those large incisors, there are not even chunks missing out of the bodies. Heck, nobody is even scratched. I thought the rabbits were hungry. None of this should distract you from that fact that, mysteriously, the rabbits are carnivorous. None of the characters are surprised either; once they accept the idea that giant bunnies are loose the change to a meat diet is totally ignored.

The rabbits made their den in an abandoned mine. This allows Mr. Hillman and the Bennetts to set dynamite and collapse the mine on them. Before that they do something colossally stupid: Roy and Cole venture into the mine to see and photograph exactly what is running loose (the mine exploration is when they discover the true furry face of unspeakable horror). Once they find the rabbits it is time to leave, quickly. A swarm of hopping mammals streams after the two men. Lucky for them that the rabbits are filmed in slow motion, otherwise they would probably have been caught and eaten. I know that the slow motion was used to try and convey a sense of mass, but it looks silly. The rabbits appear as ponderous as a hippopotamus, except when they attack. Then somebody wearing a dark-furred Easter Bunny suit takes over. Oh, like that helps me with not giggling. Okay, to get back on track. Roy and Cole dash out of the mine and the dynamite is detonated, burying many of the rabbits under tons of rock and soil. The end.

Hah! Not even nearly. We are talking about rabbits. What nobody seems to think of is that rabbits can dig. The furry monstrosities dig their way out of the mine and conduct a reprisal raid against the Hillman ranch and a nearby town (population, about six). There is only one casualty (besides the horses) at Cole's place. He hikes to the nearby town to find assistance, but discovers the buildings are filled with a black, brooding presence. Inside each darkened edifice lurks a horror that mortal man was not meant to witness. Else, he might claw away the flesh from his skull trying to rid his diseased mind of the horrible image of: giant rabbits, sitting calmly. Cole, for his part, stumbles to a pay phone, calls Roy, and slowly says, "There are more of them damn rabbits."

Were I ever to go searching for Cthulhu, a tough old rancher would be the first addition to my party. Why do these things usually happen to frail old ladies or excitable cheerleaders? Perhaps demons have erupted from the ground in front of a cowboy, only to be clobbered with a shovel and then buried again before supper.

With the startling news that the rabbits are out for blood, the humans are slow to organize a counterattack. Soon there are National Guard troops available to stem the furry tide, but the Lepus expeditionary force outmaneuvers the state militia. The town of Ajo is next in line for a butt-kicking as the rabbit Rommel leads his forces over a bridge to outflank the defenders. Gerry and Amanda, who, to avoid the media frenzy that was expected to surround the rabbits, had set out for yet another city in the Bennett's camper-equipped pickup, are also in harm's way. The truck gets stuck in deep sand at a remote turnoff.

Roy is temporarily diverted in his quest to save Ajo from giant bunnies by the search and rescue mission for his family. Do not worry, the girls are fine. The plan to save Ajo is, however, of dubious value. Utilizing about a hundred civilian vehicles that were at a drive-in, the authorities plan to channel the rabbits into a narrow approach. With the cars' headlights on full, the Lepus invaders will be forced to assault directly into interlocking machinegun fire and a final protective line created by an electrified railroad track. There is some useless suspense attempted here with a freight train that must clear the track before the electricity can be diverted from the power grid, but it hardly matters. With a roar (well, as much of one as you might expect from bunnies), the Lepus charge. Those that are not machine-gunned or flamethrowered to death hit the tracks and die in agonizing pain as the electricity arcs and crackles. This is pretty funny, because it looks like some twisted version of "Apocalypse Now" with rabbits replacing people. When it is over all that remains is acres of burnt bunnies. That must smell AWFUL.

"Night of the Lepus" is flawed in many ways. It is entertaining, despite everything. This is because the movie is presented in a perfectly serious manner. They really wanted to scare or worry people with the possibility that huge rabbits could wreak havoc. I must admit that their true size is hard to ascertain. Sometimes it looks like they might be the size of a mastiff, but in the next scene the furry aberrations appear larger than a minivan. Nor does anyone ever explain why they turn carnivorous or what they were eating before the rampage. The amount of food a few hundred giant rabbits would consume is no small matter. I just know that, somewhere lost on the editing room floor, there is a scene with a farmer staring at a thousand acres of ravaged carrots and spinach and wondering, "What in the Hell is going on here?"

What I really want to know is this: who was the scientist that provided the Bennetts with that serum? Was he working on a secret government weapon? Even Ronald Reagan would be proud of the idea to unleash a horde of meat-eating rabbits on Russia! Perhaps the mysterious scientist was a big guy, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and the vial with the DNA serum had a label that read "Experiment 627." We will probably never know.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Sometimes science is a guy shaking a box full of frightended bats.
  • The bite of a common rabbit is very dangerous.
  • The phrase "rabbit in the henhouse" just does not have the same ring to it.
  • Every ranch should keep emergency supplies, such as a medical kit and machinegun.
  • The first objective of any rabbit invasion is to destroy communications. Slaughtering the populace and cutely twitching their noses comes later.
  • Rabbits growl before attacking.
  • Not many people will pick up a hitchhiker carrying a rifle.
  • Helicopter pilots are trapped inside their aircraft, much like a mouse raised inside a bottle.
  • Road flares are full of napalm.
  • Forget chiken, those cows should be terrified of rabbetz.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 4 mins - Atreyu! Nevermind, thought that you were someone else.
  • 16 mins - That is mighty neighborly of you, offering to help replant open prairie after the fire burns the dead grass off.
  • 22 mins - "Mommy, why did 70's fashions go out of style?"
  • 24 mins - That flashlight must run off of nuclear fission.
  • 30 mins - List of supplies for investigating the mine of death: radio, flashlight, digging tools, rifle, dynamite, flamethrower...hey, who forgot to bring the flamethrower?
  • 36 mins - The rabbits apparently jump sixty feet, straight up, to exit their warren.
  • 50 mins - Those sure do look like domestic rabbits. (Okay, I apologize for that one.)
  • 61 mins - Elgin's litmus test for rabbits is not terribly scientific.
  • 72 mins - If Herbie were only the vanguard of a race of alien automobile colonists, this could have been our world.


  • Cole: "Could this have been caused by the serum you injected in that one rabbit?"
    Roy: "I'm sure of it. It only takes one."
  • National Guardsman: "Ladies and gentlemen, reports from headquarters confirm that the horde of killer rabbits is getting closer to town. High voltage has been turned on into a section of the railroad tracks and it is your car lights we hope will funnel the rabbits onto them. There will be machinegun and rifle fire to both kill and divert these monsters. Do not panic."

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note nightlepus1.wav Listen to Amanda being traumatized by seeing and hearing some ranchers slaughtering rabbits.
Green Music Note nightlepus2.wav Deputy: "Mr. Leopold, where do those tin cans lead us?"
Dr. Leopold: "Well, for one thing, they were not opened with an axe. Something punctured the metal. Not too fast, but with great strength. The crates on the truck weren't broken either; they were gnawed."
Green Music Note nightlepus3.wav Scientist: "I've studied abnormalities and birth defects all my life. It's come pretty close to home for me. I see them all the time. Naturally, I'd like to believe they don't exist. Unfortunately, they do."
Roy: "But, doctor, rabbits as big and as ferocious as wolves? It isn't conceivable."
Green Music Note nightlepus4.wav Deputy: "Attention, attention, ladies and gentlemen, attention. There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help."

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipnightlepus1.mpg - 2.5m
Witness the hideous end that comes to the Hillman farm on furry feet. This poor guy tried to flee in the only working truck, but came back after finding the road blocked by giant bunnies. Now it is time for him to die. Tripping in a horror movie is always a surefire way to attract Darwin's attention.

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