Watched NIGHT OF THE LEPUS the other night, courtesy of my Netflix subscription. It's one of those films that I remember seeing some 30 odd years ago on the late movie (God, remember when late-nite TV actually showed movies instead of lame infomercials and talk shows?)when I was a kid, but hadn't seen since. LEPUS has a reputation as a "so Bad it's Good" film, so when the DVD came out last fall, I put it on my Netflix queue to check out.
After having sat through the film, I can't put myself in the "so Bad, it's Good" camp... LEPUS is an AWFUL film - leaden in its pacing, and acted so painfully serious and straight it's obvious that the majority of the cast is clearly disgusted with themselves at what they'll do for a paycheck.
LEPUS is a good example of a concept that was handled badly - for some reason, this fascinates me more than just calling it a 'bad movie'. Because, looking at it's pedigree - it was produced by MGM, starred Oscar-nominated actors, was made by people who had some dabbling in the genre - ideally, it should have been at least an enjoyable B-picture instead of a big turkey...
If you haven't seen the picture... well, I can't in good conscience recommend the film. Checking out some snarky reviews, like this, and this one, and of course, this one, will give you a sense of the film - and if you're adventurous, and don't mind losing over 90 minutes of your life, go ahead and rent the thing.
What's fascinating (to me, at least) is that while watching the film, what I noticed was a distinct lack of humor in the picture - the events in LEPUS are treated with a grim air of seriousness, which is strange for a picture that is about giant mutant rabbits rampaging across the desert and eating people. In fact, if you're brave enough to actually see this, the only distinct image you'll take away from it are the slightly surreal scenes of bunnies hopping though minature landscapes in slow motion (appropriated by THE MATRIX and NATURAL BORN KILLERS) - and it's an image that does not inspire fear.
It almost seems that the filmmakers thought that to allow any sort of humor in the situation to be acknowledged would've sunk the entire enterprise... to my thinking, it could have only helped the picture. Gene Kearney, one of the co-writers of the film, certainly could have pulled that off - if you grew up on 70's television, you'll recognize the name... he was one of the writers on ROD SERLING'S NIGHT GALLERY and did some memorable segments (the adaptation of Conrad Aiken's "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" for one; and several of the "humorous" segments in the second year of the show) and could have pulled off that balance of humor and horror.
LEPUS is based on a novel - yes, it was - called THE YEAR OF THE ANGRY RABBIT by Australian writer Russell Brandon, and from what info I could gather, the novel was a slapstick satire. Published in 1965 in America, I suspect that it was a project that was a long time in development, and when the 70's 'eco-horror' films got to be popular, got greenlit to take advantage of the trend - and was substantially rewritten to take place in America. Somewhere in the process, the idea that it could be funny got dropped, to everyone's detriment.
LEPUS is exactly the type of picture that you'd WANT to remake - one would have to really try hard to do any worse. Maybe Hollywood should get a clue and stop remaking GOOD films - good films will always find an audience. Get someone to remake LEPUS, only with a lot more humor... hell, it's perfect for The Sci-Fi Channel!