Night of the Lepus

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this mural is painted on the side of the building housing Roadrunner Java in Ajo, Arizona. (Roadrunner Java is located at 932 North 2nd Avenue.  North 2nd Avenue is the same thing as Highway 85, so this cafe is on the main drag, on the east side of the street.) I was told the mural was painted by Ajo muralist Mike “DaWolf” Baker.

According to the mural Night of the Lepus was filmed in Ajo.

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What in the world is Night of the Lepus? you may ask. You may also wonder, Why do those rabbits look so mean?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Lepus,

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 July 26, 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. Character actors from Westerns the pair had worked on were brought in to star in the Night of the Lepus, 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 attack scenes.

Ok, wait. Could we read the last part of that last sentence again?

Night of the Lepus used domestic rabbits filmed against miniature models and actors dressed in rabbit costumes for the attack scenes.

The aforementioned Wikipedia page explains in a bit more detail:

To depict the rabbit attacks, a combination of techniques were used. For some scenes, the rabbits were filmed in close-up stomping on miniature structures in slow motion.[6] For attack scenes, they had ketchup smeared on their faces.[1] For other scenes, human actors were shown wearing rabbit costumes.[1][2][6]

So this movie tried to scare people with regular pet bunnies moving among (and probably knocking over) miniature models? And to make them scarier, the bunnies were filmed with ketchup smeared on their faces! (Oh, that’s scary!) And then when they needed the bunnies to be really, really scary, they put human people in rabbit costumes? I haven’t seen one minute of this movie, but I’m already laughing.

Here’s more from the Wikipedia page:

In a darkened room, a woman is shown lying screaming in a bed bathed in light. On the wall overhead, the shadow of a larger, unnamed creature with large teeth is seen.

This is the original theatrical poster for Night of the Lepus. I took this image from the movie’s Wikipedia page.

Originally titled Rabbits, production company MGM renamed the film, using the Latin name for “rabbit” in hopes of keeping the audience from presuming the animals would be non-menacing. To further prevent the audience from thinking of cuddly bunnies in relation to the film, the theatrical posters featured no rabbits, instead displaying only eyes and referencing unnamed “creatures”. The trailers showed no critters, and the press releases only mentioned that the film had “mutants.” The only clue given to the audience was the required acknowledgment on the poster to Braddon’s novel. However, some Night of the Lepus promoters gave away the secret by sending out souvenirs decorated with rabbit’s foot designs.[2]

I was not surprised to learn that this film received a lot of criticism. It seems like John Kenneth Muir summed it up pretty well in Horror Films of the 1970s. He

felt Night of the Lepus was one of the “most ridiculous horror film[s] ever conceived”, with a poor blend of horror and environmentalism that resulted in it being more of a comedy. He criticized the “primitive special effects”, badly done editing and laughable dialogue, and noted that while the rabbits and actors are rarely seen on screen together, the filmmakers used obviously fake rabbit paws and people in rabbit suits for the few scenes calling for human/rabbit interactions. Like most critics, he pointed out that the rabbits were “cute bunnies” rather than “fanged, disease-ridden mutated creatures”, but he felt the actors did the best they could with the material, and praised them for “[keeping] straight faces as they heroically stand against the onslaught of the bunnies”.[16]

Sounds like the mural in Ajo is more artistic and more entertaining than the movie that inspired it.

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I do wish someone would remove the bush blocking the view of the mural. The bush is distracting and makes the building seem abandoned.

I took all of the photos in this post.

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

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