Saturday, February 8, 2014

Rifftrax Takes On Night of the Lepus, or Mike Nelson's First Film Trauma

Remember this from 20 years ago?

According to MST3K canon (thanks to Shout Factory for this), Night of the Lepus was one of the movies Mike Nelson had to endure before he became the new "test subject" to Dr. Forrester's plan to destroy the world through bad movies. To be fair, the doc never foresaw SyFy, Sharknado...or Rifftrax.

At long last, Rifftrax took on Night of the Lepus, a 1972 film that would have been in Bert I. Gordon's wheelhouse if it was made ten years earlier. It was part of MGM's efforts to be more contemporary after its golden age was over. The cast is interesting: western movie staples Stuart Whitman and Rory Calhoun, Janet Leigh (so there's a few Psycho jokes), and DeForest Kelley in his post-Star Trek period.

It starts with famous Los Angeles anchorman Jerry Dunphy talking about how having too many rabbits, and trying to get rid of them, can upset the balance of nature. That's just like Stan Chambers reporting on the Amazing Colossal Man. Anyway, Whitman and Leigh play married scientists who are asked by a rancher (Calhoun) to do something about a rabbit infestation but not use poison. It's so bad, it's killed one of his horses. Kelley is there as a professor with a really odd mustache.

The scientists come up with a serum that would cause birth defects and reduce the birth rate. They infect a rabbit, which their daughter actually likes. She not only mixes up the rabbit with an uninfected control group, but a pesky kid eventually lets it escape.

The two kids go to an abandoned mine to meet some old coot named Captain Billy. They find him, all right, as the now-mutated rabbits' dinner. It isn't long before the rabbits have the cutest stampedes, hijacking trucks, attacking horses and nibbling unsuspecting people to death.

Since Rifftrax closes its YouTube previews after a while, I included the direct link to the movie sample this time. Anyway, a sample of what to expect:

The movie is based on the book, The Year of the Angry Rabbit

Kevin Murphy:  It's about when the Trix Rabbit got fed up and decided to buy a gun.

The kids find the big rabbits in the mine

Mike Nelson:  Hippity, hoppity, death is on its way

Janet Leigh tries to express...something...but it's been 12 years since Psycho

Bill Corbett:  Her emotions span the gamut from fretful to kind of worried

The Lepus monsters' theme song

Kevin:  Nothing enhances the terror of giant rabbits like barely audible Brian Eno music

The National Guard await the rabbit stampede

Mike: Unleash the 200 foot Yosemite Sam!

There's also lots of Bugs Bunny jokes, along with riffs on Australia in general, The Brady Bunch, Pirate World, Robert Goulet, Full House, Blue Thunder for some reason, and past Rifftrax targets including Birdemic, Mutant and Treasure of the Amazon.

While we'll never know how the Mike Nelson of 1993 tried to learn movie sarcasm by watching this movie, he certainly turned it into cinematic hasenpfeffer today. Slow-motion stampedes, recycling scenes, lousy special effects, it's in there. Maybe Mr. Gordon would have riffed on this, too, commenting on how he would have done it.

For more first class movie riffing, visit