Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Instant Cult Picks - NIGHT OF THE LEPUS & FROM HELL IT CAME ""

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Warner Archive Instant Cult Picks - NIGHT OF THE LEPUS & FROM HELL IT CAME

NIGHT OF THE LEPUS (1972; William F. Claxton)
The first time I ever heard NIGHT OF THE LEPUS mentioned was on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was the first episode with Mike Nelson on the Satellite of Love and the Bots (Crow & Tom Servo) said something to the effect of, "You quipped your way through NIGHT OF THE LEPUS...". It always amused me that LEPUS was like a 'training film' for them (it wasn't until recently that I realized they'd done a Rifftrax commentary for it). It is notorious for being a pretty terrible film, but it's certainly something of a cult film as well. This may be for a variety of reasons. One of them may be the premise - giant killer rabbits. On top of that you have Deforest Kelley, Dr. McCoy himself from Star Trek. I am kind of fascinated by the fact that Kelley and William Shatner both did an animal attack film. Shatner was in KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, which is actually bears a rather striking  resemblance to LEPUS. LEPUS also has Janet Leigh in a late career performance, and seeing Janet Leigh in anything is great in my opinion.
The 'animals attack' or 'nature gone wrong' genre is one of my favorites. You can start at the top, in terms of quality, with something like JAWS, or THE BIRDS or THEM and work your way down. Even the weaker entries in the genre like LEPUS or THE SWARM are still a lot of fun for me. What's intriguing about the really silly ones (again, like LEPUS) is how they were ever made to begin with. One has to wonder how the filmmakers could have been blissfully unaware of how inherently laughable some of these premises are. It's hard not to laugh (and think of Monty Python) when you say the words "killer rabbits". But then again, it is that kind of lack of awareness that allows for some rather memorable films to get out into the world. LEPUS is certainly memorable. Between close ups of rabbits & oversized props used to make them seem bigger, slow motion photography to make them seem lumbering and the use of deep growling effects to make them sound like cougars, it's hard not to snicker a little. Director Willam F. Claxton clearly attended the Bert I. Gordon University of filmmaking. If this film was made today, there would undoubtedly be a lot of winking at the audience and the result would be pretty intolerable. One thing I lie about LEPUS is that they really do try to play it straight. When the rabbit-attack victims are found , the are drenched in blood. It really is meant to be pretty grisly. There's lots of blood and lots of people screaming as they are attacked by rabbits. And it's a PG rated film!

Oh, and by the way , did I mention that Deforest Kelley has a mustache in this movie? He does. It is awesome. For that and so many other reasons, this film needs to be watched by you right now.
NIGHT OF THE LEPUS is currently streaming via Warner Archive Instant (in HD):
(which has a 2 week free trial if you haven't jumped on board yet)

Killer rabbits on the loose.

Bonus Pick:
FROM HELL IT CAME (1957; Dan Milner)
From killer rabbits to killer trees? Yep, that's the next stop on the Warner Archive Instant express and it's a hoot. This movie first popped on my radar when it Warner Archive released it on DVD early on in their existence. I started to hear that people had been clamoring for its arrival on DVD and I had to find out why. While LEPUS had something of a budget (albeit small perhaps), this film truly exemplifies Z-grade cinema, but that's kind of part of its charm.
Synopsis from Warner Archive Instant:
"Primeval tribal magic mixes with atom age science to unleash a terror tree from beyond the grave! Beware, Tabonga - part man, part tree, all vengeance! On a remote South Seas island, Kimo (Gregg Palmer), a native prince, is unjustly sentenced to death thanks to the machinations of an evil witch doctor. Swearing to return to wreak vengeance, Kimo is stabbed through the heart and buriend upright in a tree trunk. Meanwhile, a team of western scientists is on the island, concerned about the effects of fallout from atomic testing. Fallout and curse combine, and the murder tree Tabonga is born. But Tabonga's rage - and radioactive sap - may prove to be fatal for all who remain on the island, innocent and guilty alike."
Joe Dante himself has brought this film in the past I believe so it's just a matter of time before it shows up on his Trailers from Hell site. It definitely feels like a movie that needs to be covered there. It is cut from a similar cloth to things like THE GIANT CLAW and THE CREEPING TERROR, which were both included (along with NIGHT OF THE LEPUS) on this Bloody Disgusting Top Ten list of films with the least scary movie monsters:
Tabonga the tree monster is indeed not particularly scary, but this movie is nonetheless particularly entertaining in my opinion.

Like NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, this movie is currently streaming on Warner Archive Instant also in HD:

No comments: