06 June 2011

Night of the Lepus

United States – 1972
Director – William F. Claxton

Monster movies come in all sorts of forms, subgenres and species. Monsters both in literature and in cinema are almost always a symbol for something more than just a monster. Night of the Lepus ranks alongside such trash classics as Them! , Slithis and Godmonster of Indian Flats as one of my favorite among the nature twisted by science flicks. Fear of atomic power, industrial pollution and even computers have all become cultural boogeymen reformulated as screen monsters. “Progress” is scary because it’s unpredictable, and because man’s intellectual reach outdistances his ethical grasp, and so on and so forth….

It wasn’t until a second watch through of Night of the Lepus that it suddenly dawned on me that the film is a not so thinly veiled parable for the issue of Mexican immigration that has repeatedly proven anathema to deluded United Statesian racists since at least the 19th Century. The rabbit metaphor should be a familiar one, although parallels between “breeding like rabbits” and well established stereotypes about low income ethnic groups are rarely drawn explicitly. “Takeover” by the exponentially reproducing vermin, which threatens to subsume their typical hardworking all-American victims and ruin their good cultural traditions is clear enough. In Night of the Lepus the growth of the rabbits to human proportions and their proclivity for fresh blood and flesh remains mysteriously unexplained leading me to believe that not only are regular sized rabbits just not scary, but that these Lepus are meant to be even more like their analogues, making them still scarier.

The solution in Night of the Lepus, as parroted time and again in real life immigration paranoia rhetoric and literally realized along the large portions of the U.S. Mexico border, is a giant fence. Not only does this one keep them out of “our” territory, but it's also electrified such that any invaders attempting to cross it are thoroughly electrocuted to crispy death.

It is likely true that we often find the evidence we’re looking for. The fact that the film was set in Arizona although based on a novel (Year of the Angry Rabbit) set in Australia, and that it so clearly reproduces established stereotypes about Mexican immigrants in an era immediately following the end of the Bracero Program (and new immigration legislation) is too much coincidence for me to bear! Night of the Lepus is nothing more than a hilarious and ludicrous reification of United Statesian white supremacist paranoia, but damned if it doesn’t make for some entertaining cinema.

Once you know what the movie is about, the posters become even more awesome.
This one is from The League of Dead Films

Is the tagline in this ad meant to mimic the 1967 race-film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

 Ads from Criticonline.

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