Thursday, December 18, 2008

Grindhouse Classic Double Feature: Night of the Lepus and Stanley

It was the summer of ‘72, a hot night on the “Deuce”. Time to grab a bottle or two of Bali Hai and find a nice , air conditioned theater to drink it in. The Rialto was showing these two films, so I figured I’d duck in there to get out of this miserable heat. A double bill of animals on the rampage: Rabbits & Rattlesnakes, how could you go wrong?

Well actually you could. Is a guy in an Easter Bunny suit scary? Didn’t think so. Well you get a shit load of real bunnies hopping around miniature sets and some guys in bunny suits that drool a lot. Seems that some kid felt sorry for bunnies being experimented on, so one bunny is set free, screws every female rabbit on Arizona, they give birth to mutant, giant bunnies in search of fresh meat.

Janet Leigh, Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun, and Deforest Kelly all embarrass themselves in this laugh riot. The usually sedate crowd was laughing their collective asses off at this film. Leigh looks like she wished she stayed in the shower and Kelly keeps looking upward in the hope that someone will beam him up out of this movie. The rabbits leave bloody bodies all over the desert. Best line in the movie is when a deputy goes to a drive in and tells the patrons a horde of killer rabbits is headed their way.

The rabbits are eventually mass executed on some train tracks. Whitman made a couple of more genre films, Ruby and Eaten Alive. Rory Calhoun was in Motel Hell, Hell Comes to Frog Town, and the Angel series. He Died in April , 1999. Best scene in the movie has the heros trapped in the cellar. The start shooting through the floor and one bunny gets shot in the balls. The crowd went crazy over that.

Night of the Lepus was laugh fest, but Stanley was more of a what the fuck is going on? Directed by William Grefe, Stanley was shot in the Everglades and Ivan Tors Studios in Florida. Tim is a Seminole Indian who has just come back from “Nam. His best friend is a rattlesnake named Stanley. Tim’s dad was killed by poachers employed by Alex Rocco.

Tim has set up house in the ‘Glades with Stanley, his “wife” Hazel, and a houseful of snakes. Tim talks to his friends, even has them at his dinner table with a mouse under a glass for each of them. Audience members started to get really creeped out by this. Tim is made an offer by Rocco to catch him some snakes so he can use their skins. Tim is appalled that his friends might be killed for their skins.

Another “friend” of Tim’s is a washed up exotic dancer. Her manager suggests that she bite the heads off snakes during her act to attract more crowds. Tim gets “headaches” that seem to make him more unbalanced. Tim frees a bunch of snakes that the poaches have caught. He gets into a brawl with them and they vow revenge.

They hire a druggie called Psycho to come with them on the hunt. He is so fucked up that he is useless to them. The poachers leave him and go hunt for snakes. Tim has Stanley bait them . The follow Stanley into some quicksand. Holding on for life, Tim orders Stanley to bite their hands so they sink to their deaths. Psycho has found Tim’s home and he kills Hazel & her babies. Tim brawls with Psycho until Stanley bites him and he dies.

Tim goes to the nightclub and sees his friend biting off the head of a snake. He waits until she is in bed with her manager, then dumps a bunch of snakes in their bed. He also loads up Rocco’s swimming pool with water moccasins . His morning dip turns deadly. Tim grabs Rocco’s hot daughter and takes her with her. When things don’t work out, Tim orders Stanley to kill her. Stanley, obviously sick of this shit, just lies coiled up. Tim frees the rest of his friends and orders them to kill the girl. They don’t. He yells at Stanley, who bites Tim in the eye. He bites him a few more times, then the predictable fire breaks out. The girl escapes, Tim is charred , and Stanley slithers off into the swamp and retirement.

If you have any phobia about snakes, this isn’t for you. These are all real and lead actor , Chris Robinson, has a rattler wrapped around his neck during most of the film. Forget about that CG mess, Snakes on a Plane, these are the real ones. Bill Grefe , who I met a few years ago, is a cool guy and gave us Death Curse of Tartu, Jaws of Death, The Hooked Generation, and others. Chris Robinson’s portrayal of Tim is some great acting. As Tim, he seems detached from the real world as, unfortunately, some veterans were. Both films are available on DVD.
42nd Street Pete

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