Michael Scott

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Night of the Lepus


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Movie: :2.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :3stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:
Final Score: :3stars:



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Movie

For me personally, the golden age of horror films was in the 80s and 90s, when the slashers and werewolf movies took over in such a huge way. Sure, we had the really classic horror films like Psycho and other Hitchcockian movies, but the 80s was just a pure excessive gluttony of blood, gore and demonic possession (in films that is) to the max. However, the 1970s had their own little gems and niche sub genres, with one of the stranger ones being the “eco horror” genre. Movies where mankind was being taught a lesson about nature and the imbalance that messing with the animal kingdom could bring. This type of thinking permeated tons of other genres at the time, from Billy Jack to Night of the Lepus. Night was a bizarre concept from the very beginning, trying to turn little fluffy bunnies into terrifying monsters, ala Monty Python, but done so seriously that you just can’t help but laugh at the ludicrousness of it all. Scream Factory has decided that this niche horror flick needed a nice remaster, going back to the film elements and scanning at a 2K resolution master and giving us quite a nice package for those interested in the bizarre.

Arizona Rancher, Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun) is having a TON of problems with a new pest, rabbits. These rabbits are eating up his cow’s food sources like crazy, with them breeding like….well….rabbits, to the point where he is simply over run with them. When his horse steps in a new rabbit hole and forces the rancher to shoot it, Cole finally says enough is enough. However, he’s an ethical rancher, and doesn’t want to poison them all. Just get rid of the rabbits and see if he can stop them from breeding. Reaching out to professor Elgin Clark (DeForest Kelley, good old Bones from Star Trek: The Original Series), Cole asks if there is anything to be done. Luckily the knowledgeable professor has a cousin who is working with hormone treatment in bugs and bats in order to control population, so he refers the rancher to said cousin (played by Stuart Whitman).

Roy Bennett (said cousin) sets out try and change the hormonal balance of the rabbit population so they can’t breed by taking a few dozen of the fluffy little things and experimenting on them. Due to his daughter’s love of bunnies and her desire to not have them hurt, a lone rabbit with an experimental treatment is accidentally released back into the wild. Unbeknownst to the good doctor and the ranchers, this will set off a chain of events that will cause chaos over the entire ranching community. This mutated bunny begins to breed with his brethren, and soon they are turning into monsters of nature, growing to the size of wolves and desiring to slaughter anyone they come up against.
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Night of the Lepus is one of the more hilarious entries in the eco-horror genre, expecting the audience to believe in the terror that could happen if little fluffy bunnies got out of hand. In a sense it reminded me a lot of Willard with elements of Of Unknown Origin as well (mostly due to how the low budget keeps the audience eyes off of the bunnies themselves, except to focus in on their teeth to make the audience feel the “terror” of the little monsters). To make matters even better, the entire film crew and all the actors are taking this as SERIOUSLY as humanly possible. There’s no wink and a nod to the audience, or even a few intentional chuckles. Everyone from Rory Calhoun to DeForest Kelley are acting as if this is a film that they are aiming for a dramatic Oscar award from. As such, the film is so unintentionally hilarious that you end up dying with laughter throughout.

While I wouldn’t exactly say that Night of the Lepus works as a film itself (it’s an A-level effort put into a C-level film), but if you can get a bunch of the guys (or gals) over with a case of beer, then this thing could be lampooned with glee. The acting is pretty solid for what it is, but the insanity of the script is what makes this an incredibly hilarious watch.




Rating:

Rated PG by the MPAA




Video: :4stars:
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Scream Factory has gone back to the original film elements and given Night of the Lepus a brand new 2K scan, and the results are very apparent. For a 1972 film shot on cheap film stock, the movie actually looks very good. Colors are bright and warm (such as the bright red paint that they used for blood back then, or the bright blue of Jud’s jacket), and depth is more than adequate. The film is definitely a grainy experience, with some shots spiking a bit much, but that is to be expected due to the time period and cheap budget the horror movie had. Details are good, with intimate little nuances such as the stitching on DeForest Kelley’s jacket, or the little globs of “blood” in the rabbit’s fur showing up nicely. Black levels are good, showing off good details in places like the underground cave, and I didn’t notice too many artifacts in those dark shots (just some grain spiking and a bit of a wonky crush here and there). I would say that this is the best the film has ever looked, and very well may be the best it EVER looks, as from what I could tell they really went over the film in painstaking detail when restoring it.





Audio: :3stars:
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Night of the Lepus has only a single 2.0 Mono track in the DTS-HD MA format, and it does well enough for an old 70s track. The vocals are really the only major sound effect here, with some screaming of the rabbits and gun shots for good measure. Dialog is well placed up front, and you can hear everyone intelligibly, it’s just that there’s some mild background hiss in the track when played at normal levels. It doesn’t distract too much, but it’s just there in the background and keeps the track from being overly sharp. The track also is naturally a bit thin, with no surround activity or LFE to keep it filled out. The twangy 70s score is solid enough, but the track is really just a cheap 70s mono track, so it’s not something that I would expect to be rip roaring and vibrant.






Extras: :2.5stars:
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'
BRAND NEW REMASTER OF THE FILM struck from the original film elements
• NEW Audio Commentary with author Lee Gambin (Massacred by Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film)
• NEW Audio Commentary with Pop Culture historian Russell Dyball
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spot
Radio Spot
Still Gallery








Final Score: :3stars:


While the movie isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination (and my score reflects that), the movie is hilariously goofy film that really should have been chosen by Mystery Science Theater 3000 or Rifftrax to be torn apart and laughed about. The premise alone is enough to elicit a few chuckles, but the silly acting and cheap special effects for the film really clinches it as “almost parody” level. The Blu-ray itself is a mixed back, as the audio track for the disc is rather mediocre, while Scream Factory has given the video a very nice 2K remaster which really does look very nice. While I can’t recommend buying it blindly for horror fans due to it’s ridiculousness, the fans of the film will be decently pleased with this upgrade from the beaten up MGM DVD of yesteryear.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, DeForest Kelley
Directed by: William F. Claxton
Written by: Don Holliday, Gene R. Kearney
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA Mono
Subtitles: English
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: PG
Runtime: 89 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 19th, 2018






Recommendation: Hilariously Awful

 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. Will look out for this..
 

Asere

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Thank you for the review. I remember hearing about this film but I don't recall ever seeing it. I may check it out if its ever on Prime.
 

Asere

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Also this movie reminds me of the 1972 Frogs. Have you seen it?
 

Michael Scott

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Wow .I haven't seen that movie in YEARS. I can see the resemblance
 
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