Wednesday, January 10, 2018


A couple of months back TCM ran Willard and Ben as part of TCM Underground. I finally got around to watching Willard (I haven't watched Ben yet), and since both are available Blu-ray, I'm more than comfortable doing a post on Willard.

Bruce Davison plays Willard, a young man who works in the accounts department at a factory and who is a bit of a loner. It's easy to see why he's become a loner. His boss Martin (Ernest Borgnine) treats him like dirt for even the smallest mistakes, and his home life isn't the greatest either, what with his having to live with his mother Henrietta (Elsa Lanchester) in the old family house that's too big for the two of them, but which she's not about to give up. Mom henpecks her son, which he resents no end. Furthermore, she thinks he should have an executive position in the business, considering that her husband helped found it and she believes Martin cheated him out of it.

The closest Willard comes to caring about anybody are the rats who live in the basement and the backyard that's getting overgrown. Indeed, he's beginning to think about training them to respond to simple cues. But that training goes father than Willard can imagine. He names two of the smartest rats Ben and Socrates, and then sics all of the rats on one of Martin's swanky parties. He also starts taking Ben and Willard into work.

Be careful when you train animals that haven't been domesticated. Siegfried and Roy could tell you about that, although they were dealing with animals that are dangerous because of their size. In Willard's case, the problem is with the sheer number of rats. One rat might not be a problem, but of course once you get a male rat and a female rat, they're going to multiply beyond anything one person can control.

Willard is never going to make anybody's ten best list, but boy is it a lot of fun. It's easy to empathize with Willard and see why he would take solace in those poor rats, and then with his plight when events spiral out of control. I can also only imagine how difficult it was for the rat handlers working on the movie; this after all was the days before CGI could produce more rats than you can shake a stick at. It's also not particularly scary; I found it more of a drama than a horror movie.

If you ever want a good popcorn movie to watch with friends, you could do far worse than to watch Willard.

1 comment:

Wendell Ottley said...

I've been meaning to see this, but haven't really felt pressed about it because I have seen the remake. For what it's worth, I thought that was a very fun film.