Approaching a movie like this can lead to all sorts of problems.
First, let's get the plot out of the way: Ranchers, plagued by hungry rabbits and their livestock-crippling burrows, appeal to scientists to help them out. Science brainstorm: shrink the malignant mopsies. Enter one proto-eco-terrorist child to mess up the experiment, with the result of giant, carnivorous, rampaging rabbits.
I repeat: giant, carnivorous, rampaging rabbits.
So you would think the proper approach to this would be as a party movie. MST it, in the parlance, roast the corn. Assuredly, Night of the Lepus takes itself very seriously, which normally just rachets up the hilarity a notch or two in such circumstances, but for deadly serious you can substitute deadly dull. This is strictly horror-movie-by-the-numbers filmmaking; the characters are not particularly engaging, the scenario far from original, and the monsters... well, the monsters are rabbits.
This is, in fact, the only way I can glean any entertainment from this thing: watching scenes of bunnies hopping about in slow motion through miniature sets and considering: somebody was paid money for this. Somebody watched this scene and thought, "Oh my yes, this is frightening." That somebody was likely not the audience, though. And that somebody probably found their movie-making career curtailed thereafter.
Adding to the sense of doomed desperation is the cast, struggling gamely to entertain, doubtless while fondly thinking of the reaming they were going to give their agents afterwards: Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun (who came this close in the 70s to a second career as a horror star), Janet Leigh, DeForrest Kelley...
Unsurprisingly, Lepus never got an official release on home video, perversely leading to a groundswell of requests for it. Warner Home Video stepped up to that plate; now people who never believed that such a movie existed can no longer deny the truth. Whether that is a good thing or bad, I cannot say. Let history be the judge.
It's nice to see Warner putting out more genre offerings from its vaults - this time from the recently-acquired MGM library. The film elements are in astonishingly good shape - grain is occasionally distracting, but that's our old friend, the film stock of the 70s. Overall, this is a gorgeous print.
The only extra is the theatrical trailer, which makes a very large -and unsurprising - point of never showing a giant bunny. It accomplished its goal at the time, which was to get people curious, and cause the unsuspecting to pay money to see a movie about lethal lagomorphs.
Yeah, I'm still a little ticked off about that, more than thirty years after the fact.
Dr. Freex, 5/21/2006