Saturday, 23 April 2011

Easter Special - Killer Bunnies

Tonight, if you're lucky, the Easter Bunny might make a visit to your house. He'll leave behind chocolates and colorful eggs no doubt stolen from somewhere. The media would portray him as a sort of modern day Robin Hood when he should be above the pigs from Angry Birds in the list of Public Enemies. As is often the case with these sort of holiday mascots, the truth is far more disturbing than we usually would like to think. Bunnies are bloodthirsty animals as evidenced by these three films.

Monty Python and The Holy Grail
UK, 1975
Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones

If one should watch one Python movie on Easter, it should be Life Of Brian. People have walked astray from remembering that the holiday is actually for honoring the martyrdom of The Leaver of the Sandal, no matter what those traitors from Judean People's Front would have you believe. Nevertheless, the first proper Python film does have an Eastery message of itself: never trust cuddly rabbits.

As aficionados of the film well know, The Dread Rabbit of Caerbannong is no ordinary rabbit. Underestimating this vile beast who lives in the midst of bones of its previous victims came to be the fate of Sir Bors and an assorted selection of other valiant knights. The only thing able to slay the beast is the Holy Hand Grenade of Anthioc.

As one might've noticed, I am a bit of a Python fan. Nevertheless, Holy Grail is actually only my third favorite of their films. While it contains some of the best gags from their film career, the ones that don't work as well don't have the visual whizz-bang of The Meaning of Life, nor help the story roll along á la Life of Brian. The film as a whole does seem like a collection of sketches. Still, the Terry duo of directors keep the athomsphere oddly sinister (suitable for the Dark Ages), yet have various cartoony setpieces that lighten the mood of dread. The patented Python way of comedy of very silly (but smart) absurdities and utterly destroying the believability of all authority figures, is at its peak here. The film is also admirable for it's anarchistic ideas about storytelling about an Arthurian legend. The ending in particular is such a big "fuck you" to the audience that even the slightest involment in the film's story, the likes of which have probably never been seen before or since. Never mind that it is clearly the result of running out of money or patience to write anything more satisfactory. Still a hilarious film and highly reccommended.

★★★★ 1/2
Watership Down
UK, 1978
Director: Martin Rosen

Watership Down is considered one of the most traumatic films ever made, and for good reason. Generations of children have been willfully subjected to this film, which suits them about as much as news footage from the Palestine. No wonder so many have gotten ightmares and irrational fears as a result. For while Watership Down is a film about talking animals, they actually are and act like animals (besides the crapping and the mating). And nature, as we all know, is cruel as hell. Oh yes, there will be blood.

The story is about a group of individuals looking for a promised land where they can live free from danger and tyranny. You can probably make your own parables from this. But this search does not actually end that happily as in a rabbit's life, violence is always just around the corner. And not only from predators or people, but also coming from other rabbits, who have formed warring coalitions.

Watership Down has a decidedly European feel to it. The animation is pretty and the hand-painted backgrounds remind of a children's storybook. There's no futile disneyfication and the result is dark and edgy enough for cynical adults as well. The film opens with a myth about the world's creation from the rabbit's point of view. This would probably be told time after time to rabbits questioning why they are so presecuted yet considerably different from others. It's a fascinating idea that animals would have legends such as this, which are so closely relatable for our human stories made to answer the same kind of questions. Yet this spiritual portion of the film comes through mostly in annoying scenes that are accompanied by Art Garfunkle's horrible song "Bright Eyes". I've always hated that song.

Also the comic sidekick seagull is annoying and possibly a bit racist.

★★★ 1/2

Night of the Lepus
USA, 1972
Director: William F. Claxton

The biggest rabbit problem of all time has got to be in this film where a huge pack of flesh-eating giant mutant rabbits terrorize a small town. The events begin from trying to develop a humane method of keeping rabbits away from one man's ranch. But Roy Bennett (Stuart Whitman) is the wrong man to get to develop the system as he tries to accomplish this by pumping the rabbits full of hormones. Instead of sterilizing the rabbits like Bennett planned, the creatures grow to a monstrous size and escape to underground caverns where they will surface from time to time. 

By the early 70's, film producers were really scraping the bottom of the barrel to create sci-fi or catastrophy B-movies based on real world threats. Someone had the bright idea of drawing the inspiration from Australia where the rabbit problem had become a threat to the whole ecosystem and agriculture of the continent. The rabbits had no predators over there and thus could reproduce as much as they wanted, eating away all the crops they came along. But of course cuddly rabbits wouldn't suffice as a movie villain and thus they needed to be giant mutants. Who eat horses and cattle. Probably people as well.

Otherwise Night of the Lepus is pretty much your run-off-the-mill B-movie. Needlessly long of the film's running time is donated for giving its ludicrous plot a somewhat scientific explanation, and of B-list actors (Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley etc.) looking worried and discussing about what they should do about the problem. The extra star comes from me digging women having the familiar terrified scream while seeing cuddly rabbits (who do growl!), and the effective end scene where the rabbits are exterminated.

Happy Easter from The Last Movieblog!

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