Any attempt I can get, I love to relive the cartoons and movies of my childhood. In this particular case, it occurred to me…what about that movie Watership Down? I am sure many of the loyal readers are familiar but are most likely in the same position I found myself…I remember that movie, I remember rabbits fighting…lots of blood, it being very confusing…and very dark. Well, I sat down the other night and watched the classic again and I highly recommend that all the readers, if you have not seen this recently, take the time…it is a classic story for a reason.
The movie, written and directed by Martin Rosen (1979), is based on the book and compilation of shorts written by British author Richard Adams. It follows Fivel, a small rabbit that predicts the destruction of their home the “warren”. Fivel convinces his brother, Hazel, and several others to abandon the warren and set out to find another, safer home. Along the way they encounter many obstacles, both natural and manmade. After encounters with several dangers and other warrens, they find a new warren atop a hillside, Watership Down. As they settle in, they realize that they have the perfect place to relax and build a new colony…except they missed one detail…no ladies, therefore, no babies!
In the quest to procreate, they seek out nearby warrens with females that are willing to leave in search of new homes. But not all warrens are created equal; in fact, some are symbolic of police states where the leaders rule by fear and the population lives in overcrowded and poor conditions. Regardless, Fivel and the new warren endeavor to persevere and battle to build and protect their new stake. They make alliances and use the natural dangers of their surroundings to their advantage as they struggle to survive.
Again, as a kid, this movie was confusing, violent and for the most part it is still true as an adult. At least now I have a better attention span and grasp on the British dialect (after years and years of Monty Python, Doctor Who, and Douglas Adams’ productions!!). Watching it this time, I had a much greater appreciation for the structure and depth that Adams created in the story and characters. The rabbits have their own religious icons and often act on inspiration or fear of these figures. The warrens have likeness to human society and structure as well. Each warren has a caste system with leaders, military/police, and the common people. These aspects of the story make it very compelling for the audience.
Bottom line – I recommend each reader to take some time and rent this classic. Watching this again has inspired me to seek out the original Adams novel and shorts to get to know the characters and story better. Per the usual novel-to-movie adaptation, much of the original story was cut to make the film a reasonable length, but critics agree the Rosen’s film adaptation “cuts through Adams’ book to expose the beating heart of the story”. I am also curious to hunt down the television series that ran for three seasons on British and Canadian TV from 1999-2001.
One last geek note: The movie features the voice talent of John Hurt (rabbit Hazel), who as you know in the same year was impregnated by a face hugger in the Ridley Scott uber classic Alien!
The one and only thing this movie is missing is a voice appearance by DeForest Kelley as we can all understand his intimate connection with rabbits after the 1972 foul smelling crap-tastic classic Night of the Lepus!