31 Days of Horror Cinema

Night of the Lepus: 31 Days of Horror

Night of the Lepus has a reputation, so when I viewed my DVR’d broadcast from TCM and witnessed a Ben Mankiewicz introduction that included the phrase “one of the most effective horror films of the period,” I paused.

night of the lepus 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Moldy, Unseen DVR’d TCM programming

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1970’s



#7. Night of the Lepus

night of the lepus posterNight of the Lepus has a reputation, so when I viewed my DVR’d broadcast from TCM and witnessed a Ben Mankiewicz introduction that included the phrase “one of the most effective horror films of the period,” I paused.

Was I watching the movie I thought I was watching?

It only took a few minutes to realize that Ben was overselling his feature presentation.

Rest assured… Night of the Lepus contains every advertised ounce of unintentional humor. I tried to take it seriously. I tried to abide the Chewbacca “rabbit” arms reaching out to slice a victim’s jugular. I tried to accept that 3/4 of the film’s runtime seems to be occupied with slow-mo rabbit leaping.

I tried… but in the end, you know what? It’s better just to give in, make the wrong turn at Albuquerque and embrace the terrible movie on its own terms.

night of the lepus title

The Story

Bunny rabbits have taken over a small Arizona town after residents eliminated their natural predator — the coyote. Rancher Cole (Rory Calhoun) approaches a couple of college smartypants of rectifying the problem without the use of poison. College president Elgin (Deforest Kelley) enlists researchers named Roy (Stuart Whitman) and Gerry (Janet Leigh) to come up with a solution.

night of the lepus

They begin experimenting with hormones intended to disrupt the rabbits’ hyperactive breeding cycle. They inject a birth-defect serum into a test group, but oooops, the researchers’ daughter falls in love with one of the injected animals and switches him into the test group so she can keep him as a pet. This is why we can’t have nice things, kids.

The rabbit, of course, escapes and commands a scourge of bloody terror across the southwest. If these chupacabras are Night of the Lepus‘ Godzilla, then this 8-year-old girl is atomic radiation. Anyway, Rory Calhoun running all over Arizona pumping hot lead into these cow-sized rabbits placed him approximately one half step away from full-on Elmer Fuddness.

And how much better would Night of the Lepus have been with Elmer Fudd leading the charge? But I digress.

hunting wabbits

The humans in the film become window dressing. They’re wallpaper, the cogs necessary to spout exposition and move the narrative forward. The star of Night of the Lepus? Slow-motion rabbits galloping through scale models of towns and the countrysides. Rabbit paws taking swipes at screaming humans.

night of the lepus

And best of all, rabbits just chillin’ in a grocery store turned diner, waiting for a slice of pie and drinking coffee but god forbid they order anything with real substance so the waitstaff can actually earn a goddamn living.

night of the lepus



Audio/Visual notes:

The fuzzier the better. That’s my motto regarding 1972 monstrous rabbit movies.

Final Thoughts:

Best viewed in .gifs and stills, Night of the Lepus leaps off the screen as less than the sum of its individual clips. I paused scenes to see how the rapidly cut images fit together and what kind of absurdity could be revealed. (The below .gif does a great job of simulating that experience.)

Rabbit attack paws and countryside frolics make for good laughs, but the nature-gone-wild/evils-of-meddling-with-mother-nature storyline offers little reward. Night of the Lepus qualifies for the I’ll-watch-it-drunk video store banner, but just barely. And don’t get me started on the way the film resolves its stampeding rabbit issue.

…wait for it….

It’s hare-brained to say the least.

night of the lepus gif

30Hz Movie Rating:



Night of the Lepus has been released by Warner Archive, presumably to fuel the Interwebs’ requirement of bloodthirsty rabbit .gifs.

night of the lepus warner archive





2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972)


2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax / #29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage / #30. Dead and Buried / #31 Ghost and Mr. Chicken

By jdp

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer, movie watcher and vinyl crate digger. I've interviewed Tom Hanks and James Bond and it was all downhill from there.

Night of the Lepus: 31 Days of Horror

by jdp time to read: 3 min