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Night of the Lepus (1972)
Night of the Lepus, also known as Rabbits, is a 1972 American science fiction horror film based on the 1964 science fiction novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit. Released theatrically on October 4, 1972, it focuses on members of a small Arizona town who battle thousands of mutated, carnivorous killer rabbits. The film was the first science fiction work for producer A.C. Lyles and for director William F. Claxton, both of whom came from Western film backgrounds. Various character actors from Westerns the pair had worked on were brought in to star in the film, including Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, and DeForest Kelley. Shot in Arizona, Night of the Lepus used domestic rabbits filmed against miniature models and actors dressed in rabbit costumes for the various attack scenes. Before its release, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) renamed the film from its original name of Rabbits, and avoided including rabbits in most promotional materials to try to keep the mutant creatures being featured a secret. However, the studio itself broke the secret by issuing rabbit's foot themed promotional materials before the release.
But perhaps the best way -- if the least well-known -- is to include the word 'lepus' in it.
Night of the Lepus follows the age-old horror tradition of taking harmless animals (see Them!) and blowing them up to ridiculous size, which, of course, makes them evil. In Lepus, lettuce-munching bunnies suddenly develop a taste for human flesh once they explode to 100 times their normal size. Thus, they must be killed.
Most of the film comprises the scientists and cops who try to deal with the sudden lepine invasion, which takes place in the U.S. southwest, with its deserts aplenty. They send men into giant rabbit holes and shoot plenty of guns at lone species, but this is all a buildup to the finale, when a mass attack of giant rabbits is launched.
To call Lepus a bad horror film is an insult to the legacy of Ed Wood. At least Wood was trying. Director William F. Claxton (a TV director, this was one of his few films) just seems wholly incapable of making the movie remotely frightening, or even of making much sense. The biggest mistake: Using regular-sized bunnies and miniature sets to show our rampaging rabbits running amok. The effect is so awful as to make the entire film a huge joke -- in fact, that's exactly how it's become known today, as one of the worst films ever made.
Hard to argue with that.