Night of the Lepus (aka Rabbits): B-Level Sci-fi Horror, Starring Janet Leigh and Stuart Whitman

Night of the Lepus (aka as Rabbits), a B-level sci-fi horror based on Russell Braddon’s 1964 sci-fi novel, “The Year of the Angry Rabbit,” stars Janet Leigh and Stuart Whitman.

Grade: C- (*1/2 out of *****)

Night of the Lepus
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.

Theatrical release poster

This was the first sci-fi feature for producer A. C. Lyles and director William F. Claxton, who previously had made Westerns, which enabled them to cast actors from those films, including Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, and Rory Calhoun.

Shot in Arizona, Night of the Lepus used rabbits, shot against miniature models, and in some scenes, actors dressed in rabbit costumes.

MGM changed the film’s original title, “Rabbits,” into Night of the Lepus in order to avoid including rabbits in promotional materials, and to maintain suspense.

The last reel is preposterous: A large group of people are recruited at a drive-in theater to help herd the rabbits with their car lights, helped by the gun fire of the National Guard. Thousands of rabbits get into the trap, where they are shot and electrocuted.

At the film’s conclusion, Cole tells Roy that normal rabbits and coyotes have returned to the ranch. The last scene depicts Roy and Gerry on a field, where a normal rabbit is seen sitting on the grass.

Though panned by critics for its bad directing, stilted acting, and poor special effects, over the years Night of the Lepus has gained a minor cult status; sort of guilty pleasure.


Directed by William F. Claxton
Produced by A. C. Lyles
Screenplay by Don Holliday and Gene R. Kearney, based on The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon
Music by Jimmie Haskell
Cinematography Ted Voigtlander
Edited by John McSweeney Jr.

Production company: A.C. Lyles Productions

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: July 26, 1972

Running time: 88 minutes