Loosely based on a 1962 novel THE YEAR OF THE ANGRY RABBIT by Russell Braddon, this very silly movie finds Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh starring as a couple of zoologists who run afoul of giant killer rabbits in the American southwest. Although described as "a young couple," Whitman and Leigh were in their mid-forties at the time and they don't try to hide it. Whitman phones in his performance; Leigh, who looks like she got hit by a Tammy Wynette truck, doesn't even try. The cast is rounded out by Roy Calhoun as an irate rancher, DeForest Kelley as a unlikely university professor, and two remarkably untalented child actors named Melanie Fullerton and Chris Morell.
The story gets underway when Whitman and Leigh are called upon to figure out how to get rid of an overpopulation of wild rabbits that look supiciously like domesticated rabbits--a problem the script tries to account for by noting a recent and local mass escape of domestic rabbits that have enter the population. Whatever the case, Whitman and Leigh try a few experiments, including some genetic modifications. Unfortunately, their obnoxious child switches rabbits on them and then accidentally releases one of the modified ones into the wild. By nightfall the rabbits have become great big things and are nibbling folks to death all over the place.
It would be difficult to count the follies included in this film, but the most notorious one is the rabbits. Most of the time they are just regular bunny rabbits filmed hopping around on miniture sets. There are a lot of close ups of rabbit eyes. Very often rabbit faces are smeared with the same red syrup we find poured all over the so-called corpses. This is obviously intended to be scary, but the rabbits seem more disgruntled than dangerous--and whenever the movie has to show a giant rabbit actually attacking a human this guy in a really bad rabbit suit suddenly jumps out. The whole thing is rabbit-ridiculous, and along the way the rabbits are herded, burned, blown up and generally so harrassed that I began to side with them and wanted to call the ASPCA. "It's alright," Janet Leigh tells a rescued ranch hand after an attack. "The rabbit is gone!" So is all possiblity of the viewer's suspension of disbelief.
Most bad movies are simply bad, but now and then you encounter one that is accidentally funny. NIGHT OF THE LEPUS falls into this category, but it lacks the endearing quality of such so-bad-they're-good movies as PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. Maybe it's because you don't want to see the rabbits get hurt. Whatever the case, when watching NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, remember that illicit substances make many things seem a lot funnier than they actually are.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer