By 1972 film-makers had shown humanity battling the threats of giant ants, giant spiders, killer bees, giant gila monsters, killer shrews and sundry other murderous mutant wildlife. It was becoming something of a challenge to think of new and convincing threats. And then someone came up with a brilliant idea to breathe new life into this now rather tired sub-genre. How about giant killer bunny rabbits? I mean bunny rabbits are pretty scary to begin with, aren’t they? So giant killer bunny rabbits would have to be absolutely terrifying. Thus was Night of the Lepus born.
You might think that the only possible way to make a movie about giant carnivorous rabbits would be with tongue planted firmly in cheek, but in fact Night of the Lepus is played absolutely straight. Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh are scientists working on a biological method of controlling a plague of rabbits somewhere in the US south-west. Unfortunately their experimental method of preventing the rabbits from breeding turns them into gigantic carnivorous bunnies that breed like, well, rabbits. The acting from the support cast, which includes with DeForest Kelley (from Star Trek) and Rory Calhoun, is uniformly awful. The biggest problem with this movie, though, is that real rabbits are used, with miniature sets to make them look huge, but they still look like rabbits. And it’s hard to enjoy watching rabbits being shot, machine-gunned, set on fire and electrocuted, especially when you can’t avoid the very strong impression that the rabbits being shot, machine-gunned, set on fire and electrocuted are actual living rabbits. What could have been an enjoyable so-bad-it’s-good movie experience becomes a little sickening. So unfortunately Night of the Lepus turns out to be a lot less fun that one might have expected.