By Scott A. Cupp
This is the 174th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films
Hey, let’s try for two weeks in a row on the Forgotten Film. What a concept!
And speaking of concepts, this week’s film has one. Well, maybe half a concept: Ecology tampered with by man runs a little wild in the Southwest.
Since we just finished Easter, I thought Night of the Lepus might be a suitable tie-in film.
I remember when Night of the Lepus came out. I was a very broke college student who could do an occasional film and I thought about this one. For about two days anyway, which was when I got the report back from friends. As one put it, “This dog won’t hunt.” It was bad. For a horror film, it was not scary — a kiss of death.
And, until this weekend, I had kept that nearly 45 year streak alive.
So the plot involves rancher Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun) whose property is being overrun with rabbits. He loses one of his best horses when it steps into a rabbit hole and breaks a leg while he is riding it. He wants the varmints gone, but he did not like previous pest control efforts which utilized poisons.
Hillman contacts the president of the local university, Elgin Clark (DeForest Kelley), for assistance. Since Hillman is a big-time contributor to the university, Clark wants to help. So he contacts Roy and Gerry Bennett (Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh) who have been working with bats but respect Hillman’s request not to use poisons. They have an experimental serum which they hope will disrupt the animals’ hormones and mating habits. They also have a precocious daughter, Amanda (Melanie Fullerton), who has become attached to the rabbit given the injection. She secretly switches it out with another rabbit. Then, being precocious, she takes this infected rabbit to Hillman’s ranch, where it escapes and joins the rabbit population. Bunny breeding and mutations occur with astounding rapidity. Giant mutant rabbits begin attacking the animals and local population.
The film had good stars — some of my favorites. Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley and Paul Fix all had major roles, along with a million or so rabbits. But the human actors seem to have seen how the film was going to turn out. Their hearts must not have been in it, because their acting is marginal at best.
The screenplay, based on the novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon, a 1964 comic horror novel set in Australia, was written by Don Holliday and Gene R. Kearney. Kearney did some TV work and was nominated for an Emmy. Holliday appears to have this one credit and nothing else. The dialogue for the film is dreadful. But it’s better than the special effects. Being 1972, we have no CGI or computer assists. So we see lots of regular-size bunnies running rampant over miniature sets while costumed actors got the job of trying to appear to be giant mutant rabbits killing regular folk.
I had trouble staying with the film. I got distracted by solitaire games or pretty much anything. So, sorry for this one. Maybe I will have a better film next week. I know some people like this one for a camp effect or some such reason. I’m not going to be one of them.
Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.
I’ve tried, as someone with a longstanding media crush on Janet Leigh, to get through this one, but no. Not in only two widely-spaced tries. It is seriously dull, indeed, while also goofy…similar to THE FOOD OF THE GODS, the first film I ever walked out on in disgust, as a kid (my friends with me were freaked out by it, while I was merely annoyed at the stupidity…we end up seeing THE BAD NEWS BEARS, a second time for me. Even in 1975, theaters loathe to give refunds.