Friday, March 30, 2018

Of Bunnies and Buns—An Easter Tail

The celebration of Easter has long been associated with rabbits: cute, fluffy, cartoonish white bunnies who hop around the globe delivering gaily-colored eggs. Getting into the spirit of the holiday weekend (which also includes the start of Passover), I’ve been thinking about the motion picture world’s treatment of bunny rabbits. There’ve been lots of filmed versions of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit tales (or, I guess, tails), among them the 2018 live-action/CGI hybrid version voiced by such stars as James Corden, Margot Robbie and Daisy Ridley. Also from England, there’s stop-motion genius Nick Park’s full-length Wallace and Gromit adventure, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The British must have a thing for rabbits: Lewis Carroll’s ageless Alice in Wonderland is full of them. Hollywood has churned out well over two dozen adaptations of Carroll’s Alice story for movies and TV. Disney’s classic animated film from 1951 of course features an iconic White Rabbit and March Hare. So does the Tim Burton variation from 2010, and also the famous live-action Paramount production from 1933, featuring such mega-stars as W.C. Fields, and Cary Grant. (Charlie Ruggles portrays the March Hare.) 

Of course I can’t overlook Bugs Bunny, though that “wascally wabbit” of Warner Bros. cartoon fame is anything but cuddly. It’s a curious bit of trivia that Walt Disney first made his mark not with a mouse but with a rabbit. His “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” shorts were an early hit for their distributor, Universal Studios. In 1928, when Disney decided to go out on his own, Oswald had to stay behind. So Walt and master cartoonist Ub Iwerks shortened and rounded Oswald’s ears, added a long skinny tail, and voila! Mickey Mouse was born.

There’s one more Hollywood rabbit I have to mention, one who meets an unfortunate end. That’s the pet bunny who gets boiled by bad-girl Glenn Close in 1987’s Fatal Attraction. If you recall, she turns a one-night-stand with married guy Michael Douglas into an obsession, with the femme becoming increasingly fatale as she tries to come between him and wife Anne Archer. Result: rabbit stew. 

The success of Fatal Attraction at the box office led, of course, to a proliferation of erotic thrillers by other filmmakers. (You could say the film and its imitators bred like rabbits.) My former boss Roger Corman was always quick to capitalize on any new, lucrative trend, and there was the added advantage that erotic thrillers are cheap to make—little stunt work, no special effects, just a whole lot of boobs and buns. That’s why I found myself, as the Concorde-New Horizons story editor, hard at work on a sexy 1990 rip-off called Body Chemistry, in which two university sex researchers indulge in some extra-curricular hanky-panky, much to the detriment of the male’s formerly happy home life. In our film, the femme fatale, Dr. Claire Archer, lives on, soon popping up in Body Chemistry II (1992) as an on-the-air radio psychologist with a yen for messing up other people’s marriages.  By Body Chemistry III (1994), leading lady Lisa Pescia had been replaced by Shari Shattuck, and Andrew Stevens had come aboard both as hunky leading man and as fledgling producer. The director of BCIII was an irrepressible satyr named Jim Wynorski.  Jim and Andrew gave me an associate producer credit, and also a featured spot as a lady seeking sexual advice on a radio call-in show. Yup, that’s a gussied up version of me stretched out beside a roaring fireplace, with a phone to my ear.

 Too bad I wasn’t on set with Andrew and the bodacious Shannon Tweed for Body Chemistry IV.

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