The Nasty Rabbit (1964) – By Albert Walker

[Note: This review contains spoilers, but I don’t really care, and neither should you.]

The Nasty Rabbit was produced by legendary schlockmeister Arch Hall, who somehow continued to make movie after movie despite all of them being terrible. Arch’s most notable accomplishments are serving as the inspiration for Robert Mitchum’s character in The Last Time I Saw Archie, directing the so-bad-it’s-hilarious caveman epic Eegah, and fathering a progeny even more talentless and repulsive than himself.

Arch Hall, Jr., the star of most of his dad’s movies, was once described as having “a face like a canker sore,” but regardless, Arch Hall, Sr. was determined to make his son into a teen heartthrob and a rock-n-roll sensation. In almost all of his films, young Arch is inexplicably fawned over by bikini-clad women as he strums on a Fender and sings, despite having no familiarity with the instrument and a weaker singing voice than William Hung.

After you watch enough movies featuring the Halls, it’s easy to lose sight of how hopelessly incompetent they were. To anyone who’s used to only seeing films made by capable professionals, The Nasty Rabbit must come off as an atrocity. To those of us familiar with the golden Arches, however, this isn’t even close to being their worst film, and without a doubt it’s more professionally acted, directed and edited than Eegah.

The Nasty Rabbit is a broad (very broad) slapstick farce about a Soviet plot to release a virus in the United States and kill millions (a plot that certainly doesn’t scream “madcap comedy” these days). In the movie’s opening scene, a Soviet submarine commander (played by Arch Hall Sr. himself, sporting a godawful Russian accent) directs a secret agent named Mischa to release a vial of “fernacious bacteria” at the Continental Divide. How a guy can get from a submarine to the Continental Divide isn’t really addressed, but we’ll briefly see Mischa in a helicopter (likely, the same helicopter used in Eegah).

Instead of having Mischa simply carry the vial in his pocket, the vial is placed around the neck of a rabbit, which is—you guessed it—the titular “nasty rabbit”. To make things all the more painful, we often get to hear the rabbit’s internal thoughts [!] spoken in a sped-up Alvin and the Chimpmunks voice. Hilarious!

Mischa comes ashore, and in a lengthy bit, he’s observed by several other multi-national spies, a virtual cornucopia of ethnic stereotypes: There’s a German sporting a Kraut helmet who often lifts his hand in a sieg heil gesture; A Japanese soldier who’s apparently one of those holdouts who refuses to believe Japan surrendered, because he’s dressed like one of Emperor Hirohito’s men; A Mexican with a giant sombrero and huge mustache; And a vampy woman named Cecilia in a black cocktail dress who possesses the obligatory long cigarette holder. There’s also a midget thrown into the mix, but I have no idea what ethnicity he represents. He sounds German, but since they already have a German, I’m clueless.

All of these spies pursue Mischa to, of all places, a dude ranch. Mischa has gone undercover as a cowboy and claims to be from Montana, which is hilarious because of his thick Russian accent. See, no one catches on that he’s not from “Mon-tah-na” even though he keeps asking for a “double wad-kah”. See? See how funny it is?

But it turns out the owner of the dude ranch is really an American spy known as “Agent X”. Agent X learns that en route to the ranch is “Special Agent Y”, played by none other than Arch Hall, Jr. Since simply playing a secret agent apparently wasn’t enough for Arch, he’s also undercover as Britt Hunter, world-famous “recording star”.

Naturally, Agent X has a cute cowgirl daughter named Jackie who fawns all over Arch. In one of the movie’s few inspired bits, when she sees Arch drive up (on a motorbike, of course), she trips on something and lands on the ground with her head propped up in her hand in a total “isn’t he dreamy” pose straight out of Gidget. Trust me, in a movie like this, that’s an inspired bit.

For no reason, instead of simply releasing the virus, Mischa hangs around at the dude ranch getting drunk and trying to hit on vampy Cecilia (whom he doesn’t know is a secret agent). I’ll admit that the actress playing Cecilia has a nice pair of, um, talents, but she quickly earned my dire wrath for possessing a horrible, slow line delivery that causes her to draaaag ouuuuuut everrrrry woorrrrrrd to seven or eight syllables.

In the middle of all this, the Midget gets roped into doing some cattle roping. (Pun intended, because it’s funnier than anything in this movie.) I don’t know why this part was put in, other than someone thought it was hilarious to see a midget trying to rope cattle.

Also, his instructor turns out to be Richard Kiel, Jaws himself, making this movie the closest thing we ever got to an Eegah reunion. Richard gets about three lines in this movie, and contributes to poor sight gags whenever his seven-foot-plus frame is in the same shot as the midget. Still, he’s one of the few bright spots in this film, and his appearance is way too short.

The highlight of the movie (at least, in the eyes of Arch and Arch) is a barn dance where Arch Jr. and his band the Archers perform. (If you’ve seen Eegah, you’ll recall Arch’s girlfriend was named Roxy in that movie, and as would only follow, he serenaded her with two tunes called “Vickie” and “Valerie”. In this movie, he sings to Jackie, and my jaw hit the floor when I learned the song was actually titled “Jackie”!) Regardless, they’ve put every possible effect on his voice, from overdone echo to sloppy double tracking, but Arch’s singing sounds worse than ever.

The most unintentionally hilarious part of this movie comes when Arch is called away on secret agent business, leaving the Arch-less Archers to perform a song without him. The song they choose to perform is called “The Robot Walk” [!!], and the lyrics are as dumb as you can imagine. (And if you look closely, two of the musicians are actually Pat and Lolly Vegas, who’d later form the one-hit wonder band Redbone that sang “Come and Get Your Love”.)

Eventually, we learn the reason for the inclusion of the rabbit, which is simply to provide wacky “hijinks” when the furball gets away and everyone chases it. The middle part of the movie consists of nothing but long, tedious scenes of people running around and searching for the rabbit. Every scene takes ten times longer than it needs to, and of course it’s all set to random public domain music.

Once Mischa gets his rabbit back, the movie then degenerates into a long, long, undercranked car chase as various convertibles do donuts in the dirt, while in the background we hear (no joke) the William Tell Overture. Going by this scene, I’m guessing the filmmakers’ motto was, “You can never have too much undercranking.”

Before the movie ends (or the film runs out, whichever comes first), a G-Man shows up, played by Arch Hall, Sr. in a stunning dual role. This gives him two opportunities to suck. And suck he does, totally stumbling all over his lines, which he presumably wrote himself. Eventually, it turns out all the ethnic stereotypes were really foreign agents helping out the US, which makes absolutely no sense. Here we learn the midget is Israeli [?] and find out Cecilia was supposed to be British [??], making me wonder if her excruciating line delivery was meant to be some sort of, oh I don’t know, accent? It says a lot about this movie that I’m even asking the question in the first place.

Basically, if you’ve ever seen a Sylvester and Tweety Bird cartoon, you know the type of humor in The Nasty Rabbit. It’s always a bad sign when the highlight of a movie is the lead actor getting cracked on the back of the head with a shovel. Unless you’re in the mood for the cinematic equivalent of a shovel-to-head cracking, stay far, far away from this nasty movie.