Monday, July 28, 2008

Movie Wars Volume I: Night of the Lepus vs Kingdom of the Spiders

It's time to introduce a new feature here at Moving Picture Trash. Time to mix things up a bit. Every so often, the plan is to take two similar pictures and force them to fight it out to the death for my, and your, amusement. Each contest will feature a short review of each film plus a "final thoughts" where I declare the victor. On rare occasions, there may even be more than two pictures fighting it out in a battle royale-type thing. Chances are, I'll be too lazy to write the third review so I wouldn't count on it. Anyway, in this corner we have a 1972 picture called Night of the Lepus weighing in at 180 pounds of lethal bunny and featuring that guy who played Doc McCoy from Star Trek. And, in the other corner, we have a 1977 televison production weighing in at 1/2 a pound (times a billion!) of furry cuddly tarantulas and starring that guy that used to boss around McCoy in Star Trek, called Kingdom of the Spiders! Remember the rules gentleman. Hitting below the belt, kicking, spitting, and sodomizing are all allowed and encouraged.

Night of the Lepus (1972):
I watched this one about a week ago and took no notes, so you'll have to bare with me here. This is one of those pictures TNT used to show on a saturday afternoon...or maybe it was USA. Anyway, the point is, I always thought it was a fucking awful premise. I mean, come on, giant mutated bunny rabbits don't just go around eating people! Then I grew up and now I know better. It's a brilliant premise. Something about bunnies just isn't right. Like in that Monty Python movie where the bunny decapitates all those knights in the blink of an eye. Maybe that was supposed to be funny, but I don't know. Wasn't it a bunny that led poor Cujo into the bunny hole where a rabid bat bit him on the nose. I think the little fucker knew exactly what it was doing. The crazy bitch in Fatal Attaction had the right idea. Too bad her pot wasn't big enough to boil a few more. This is the first picture to ever devote it's entire runtime to the fluffy menace. Is it able to sustain itself for the full 88 minutes?

Not really. The film opens with about five minutes of filler where some documentarian describes the history of bunnies in Australia. Apparently, they were introduced into the ecosystem to help control the grasshopers (or some shit) that were introduced into the ecosystem to control some other shit, etc. Well, I'm sorry, but Australia might have scores of "the world's deadliest" this and that but their ecosystem is pretty fucking weak if Thumper and Jiminy can ruin it. Also, that frog in The Simpsons. I liked the footage of the stampede of bunnies crashing into fences and so forth, though I suspect PETA was against it. PETA may be for bunnies and such, but this picture hypothesizes that they are against ecosystems I think. If PETA were for ecosystems, they'd probably urge us to kill ourselves because we are certainly destroying the big one.

Anyway, the American Southwest, like Australia before it, is being overrun by bunny rabbits. That cowboy Rory Calhoun plays a cowboy in this one by the name of Cole (solid cowboy name). He's out riding his son's favorite horse Billy or Tucker or something when it breaks its leg in a rabbit hole (Like in Cujo, rabbit holes suck). Cole takes out his gun but the poor horse pleads for it's life: "it's ok, I'll sit on the couch and watch TV...look look...i can hop along on three legs, no problem...." Cole doesn't speak horse so he puts it down. Damn bunnies. Cole calls upon his friend Elgin Clark who works for a university and also played that doctor in Star Trek. He exhibits some good range here because he grew a moustache and wore dungarees. Elgin, basically incompetent when it comes to rabbits, calls upon his two zoologist friends, Roy and Gerry Bennet (played by Janet Leigh). I was disappointed in Leigh's performance as she had bad hair. Oh well. Roy and Gerry theorize that if they give some kind of hormone thing to a rabbit and reintroduce him to the population that they will literally stop fucking like rabbits. Unfortunately, their annoying little bitch daughter mucks it up by switching a test subject with a control subject or something...maybe it was a different hormone, I don't know can't remember. Well, these rabbits begin fucking even more, but what's worse is that they grow to be the size of a VW bug. What can I say, bunnies become super-engorged when they fuck I guess.

I really really loved the premise, but I can't get behind the movie 100%. While, completely reminsicent of Them, this picture slowed down too much for boring exposition. The original plan to deal with them is not without problems. I mean, these guys aren't very scientific. The idea is to set off some dynamite at a cave entrance and bury the fuckers. I guess they think it was something else digging those bunny holes. Ever seen a fucking bugs bunny cartoon? He loves the underground. There are endless scenes of giant bunnies stampeding which I guess were filmed by really little people and their really tiny cameras. Unfortunately, these scenes had the effect of lulling me towards sleep as the bunnies were filmed in slow-mo with some kind of weird methodical underwater sounds. It was worse than counting sheep, trust me. Still, I liked how they just made little bunnies look huge instead of using CGI which hadn't been invented yet. I guess they could have used a bunch of men in bunny suits (they did this for a couple of up close attack scenes), but that would be ridiculous. My favorite scene was when the medical examiner was examining a body and he deducted that the only thing that could have done this was a sabre tooth tiger, which was the one scene where this picture delved into camp.

Well, for a movie about giant bunnies played mostly straight, this is just ok. There are a few attack scenes with bright red splatter but, for the most part, this one is gore free. There's a mini scene lifted right out of Night of the Living Dead where a cowboy and his family hole up in a basement as the bunnies try to get in. Cole fires his rifle through a door and a bunny goes flying straight up into the air. These are some brutish bunnies as evidenced by licking their lips before springing upon their prey (in one scene, a stampede of horses). Not much nudity in this thing, although I think we saw a naked female back of one of the victims. Not too sexy. The performances are all good and I'm surprised they could all keep a straight face. It's worth a look if it survives the night.

Kingdom of the Spiders (1977):
Here we have a picture that I'm pretty sure was made for TV back when the big three networks used to be in the movie production business. Remember those days, when things like Duel and Trilogy of Terror were actually made? Then, towards the late 80s early 90s everything had to be based on a true story or some shit like that. Fuck, I don't think they even make mini-series' anymore. You know why? I'm guessing the combination of cable channels and reality shows. What a fucking lousy time we live in. I yearn for the days when a movie about real (not CG) tarantulas mounting a full scale war on humans could be produced. If they made this movie today, the spiders would be as big as cars and computer generated. They'd have one natural predator and it would be a seven story tall dinosaur currently gobbling up people on Broadway. In the 70s, they actually had the balls to make a movie about regular sized spiders that just got pissed off for no real reason (there are some theories involving pestacide) and decide to one day march on all of mankind or, in this case, a small rural community in Arizona. What? This doesn't take place in New York City. That's fucking insane!

Like Lepus, this picture also stars a Star Trek alum, only this one is William Shatner. Shatner shows little of the range that Kelly exhibited in the previous feature, but he is infinitely more entertaining to watch. He may not have grown a moustache, but he does sport some dungarees and rides a horse (he was last seen riding a horse in Star Trek: Generations). Shatner plays a veterinarian named Dr. "Rack" Hansen (he's named Rack because he's bad at pool and was always told to "Rack 'Em"). Like any Shatner role, in this thing, he insisted that his character know how to work a lady or two. He has a thing for his dead brother's wife and, at one point, tells her "Lady, one of these mornings I'm gonna show up and milk that cow." (if you know what he means). She doesn't own a cow.

Rack is called out one day to investigate a sick calf at the farm of black cowboy Woody Strode (a few cowboy movies). The poor cow seems to have been brought down by a single bite from a spider (the movie isn't very realistic, although it employs realism. big difference in the film world people). This is too much for one single vet, even one that played Kirk, to handle, so Rack calls for some help in the form of a bug scientist named Diane Ashley. She's pretty hot, so Kirk immediately puts the moves on her by chasing her down in his truck and forcing her to come to dinner with him. I saw this a while ago, so it's possible his brother's widow has died by this point, but I can't remember and sorta doubt it. Kirk's hedonism knows no bounds.

Anyway, the spiders attack soon thereafter and kill off Woody Strode immediately (like most horror pictures, spiders are racist). Then they attack Woody's wife and she tries to shoot a spider off her hand with a handgun. There's a quick cut, so I assume she missed the spider. My favorite scene involved some crazy pilot in a crop duster who had to fend off some tarantula's that apparently learned how to fly because they weren't on the plane when he got on. These spiders are pretty big, so I find it hard to believe they found a reasonable place to hide. It's the picture's biggest effects scene and even comes with some maniacal screaming followed by an explosion. The scene where the town is overrun reminded me of Hitchcock's The Birds and employed something I'm not a big fan of (or, maybe I am but won't admit it); children in peril/or dying/or dead. Great scene.

Again, like Lepus, this one has a Night of the Living Dead inspired scene where Shatner and his fellow survivors hole up in a resort and try to defend it against little creepy crawlies that can climb through ventilator shafts, break windows, and jump really far. The last scene is apocalyptic yet looks like shit. Then some cowboy music comes on and it's all good (for the viewer anyway. i presume everyone else died horrible deaths). This is a fun one with many positives, though the lack of nudity in consecutive pictures is disheartening to say the least. Granted, both were rated PG, but that's kinda bullshit because I seem to remember seeing a PG movie in the early 80s that included bush....or tits..or both. I think Tommy Lee Jones was in it. Nate and Hank or some shit like that. I think he played a gay pirate. Anyway, Spiders beats that picture hands down (even with the bush shot that may or may not have happened). The real question is, of course, how does Spiders fare against Lepus? Will those murderous little fluffernators get caught in a web? Or, will the Spiders break their legs in rabbit holes (like Cole's poor horse, Fred)?

Final Thoughts

I'm not gonna get all scientific like the people in these pictures. I don't have rabbit hormones or pestacides in my apartment, so I'm gonna have to resolve this the old fashioned way. Since neither movie had boobs, I decided to go with the one that bored me least. Kingdom of the Spiders wins in the 3rd round after the refs stopped the fight and, thankfully, fast forwarded through the middle section of Night of the Lepus. Lepus died on the mat from the result of massive head trauma and also innumerable spider bites to the balls. If the picture had survived I would say that it, paired with Spiders, would make a terrific double bill on a lazy saturday afternoon. Just make sure it's a day when the Sci-Fi channel is showing one of their lame natural disaster marathons. Also, I'm sorry, but there is no fucking way on this earth, or in space, that Kirk is losing in a fight to McCoy. Although, if Lepus had involved space bunnies, the fight would have been closer.


Kingdom of the Spiders


elmo said...

Where do you stand on "Arachnaphobia" (I actually don't remember anything about it)?

brian said...

I remember John Goodman's exterminator (great character). I remember the spider in the football helmet. I remember Julian Sands asshole doctor, the shower scene, the jumping spider. I remember beeing afraid to put my shoes on for years after seeing it. Still, these are my memories from a film I saw years ago. No idea if it holds up. Time to queue it up or see if I can get it for under $5.

Beepy said...

I love the idea of spiders breaking their little legs in rabbit holes. Thanks for that image. It just might get me through my day.

My rabbit, by the way, has had no opportunity to mate. I guess that is why he remains the small, cuddly, vegetarian cutie he is.

brian said...

Your rabbit would kill you in your sleep if it had the opportunity.

elmo said...

I hope no one hacks Paul Prieto's Netflix account so he gets "Night of the Lepus."

brian said...

I anonymously mailed him a copy of 'bunnicula'.

elmo said...

My favorite part of Brain Damage was the old woman's death at the end- such intense over-acting! And of course the deadly BJ scene...

brian said...

The BJ scene is a classic that was cut from the original version. My draw jopped instantly upon first viewing. Henenlotter has a new movie coming out, his first since Basket Case III (1992), called Bad Biology. It sounds...intriguing.

elmo said...

Wow- I can't wait to see what he does with current technology.

Sam said...

Good lord, you have to teach me how to wrap text around the pictures like that!

Megmo Eskimo said...

OMG!! Brian, I am SO glad you made a 'Bunnicula' reference...I freaking loved that book as a kid!! I mean a vegetarian vampire rabbit...what's not to like?!

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