26 October 2017

SECOND SIGHT FILMS PRESENTS: WILLARD and BEN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




WILLARD and BEN: A DISGUSTING DOUBLE BILL OF RAT-BASED MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WILLARD. (1971) BASED ON THE NOVEL 'RATMAN'S NOTEBOOKS' BY STEPHEN GILBERT. DIRECTED BY DANIEL MANN. STARRING BRUCE DAVISON, ELSA LANCHESTER, ERNEST BORGNINE AND SONDRA LOCKE.

BEN. (1972) DIRECTED BY PHIL KARLSON. THEME SONG 'BEN' PERFORMED BY MICHAEL JACKSON. STARRING LEE MONTGOMERY, MEREDITH BAXTER, ROSEMARY MURPHY AND BRUCE DAVISON.

'I used to hate myself, but I like myself now...'

Eeuw. God's creatures or not, I feckin' hate rats. Is there an animal more unsanitary, more repugnant or more menacing-looking in all of the Universe? I know that some people out there think that rats are intelligent, highly-sensitive and much-maligned animals but you know what?

They can bog off, haha. I'm sticking to my instinctive mistrust and dislike of all things rodenty. Watching these two films back-to-back last night made me want to take a bath in bleach before going to bed. Not a good idea, by the way, so don't try that at home, will you, or you'll get me in trouble.

The funny thing is that the day I watched these two films was the day that a family member went out to the shops for milk and came back with a Syrian hamster called Derek from the pet-shop. Syrian hamster my Aunt Fanny. It looks exactly like a white rat without a tail. In fact, it looks like Socrates, the white rat with a tail from the movie WILLARD.

The discussion on what to call him went on all day. I thought that the name Derek suited him fine, but no, a wittier, funnier name from the world of films and television had to be found. Nothing less would do. Front-runners were Bishop Len Brennan, Father Noel Furlong, Father Larry Duff, Milhouse, Principal Skinner, Paulie Walnuts, Fu Manchu, JAWS 2 (that one's mine!) and Detective Sipowicz.

The prize for the most random name choice went to my son, who came up with Flipper the Priest and July the Nineteenth, both from hilarious clerical sitcom FATHER TED, and Ma Ingalls. That last one was the funniest, I thought, but owner's privilege prevailed and the rat (Syrian hamster my butt) was christened Smithers after Mr. Burns's assistant in THE SIMPSONS.

The rat sat on the couch with us while we watched WILLARD and BEN, but he showed no interest in anything other than chewing his way through the bars of his cage. Stupid rat, haha. I swear to God, if I catch him roaming free around the house, I won't be responsible for my actions. By which I mean my screeching and standing on furniture, obviously. Not anything more sinister, I promise...

WILLARD was probably my favourite of the two films, both because of the presence of screen royalty Elsa Lanchester and the fabulous decaying old house, which looked like something from the Deep South that Bette Davis or Olivia De Havilland might have acted in once, it's so perfect a setting for any of the old screen legends.

Willard is a young man who's finding it hard to cut the apron-strings tying him to his invalid mother Henrietta, played by Elsa Lanchester, the Bride of Frankenstein herself. She still has the same full quivering mouth and instantly recognisable chin dimple. She does a wonderful job here as Willard's mother, a demanding and querulous old woman who never gives her son any peace.

Willard gets it in the neck at work as well. He's bullied dreadfully by Ernest Borgnine as Al
Martin, the man who took over Willard's father's company when he died. Al is desperate to get his hands on Willard's and Henrietta's huge, rambling old house as well, in order to tear it down and build apartments on it, which crass action would obviously be sacrilegious, considering what a fabulous old house it is.

Willard's only friends are the rats who occupy his dusty old mansion house. Discovering an affinity with the rats, he manages to train them to become his unholy army of the night, so to speak. Socrates the white rat is his favourite rat, but he's big into Ben, the leader of the rats as well.

Ben can actually read, believe it or not, he's that clever. I seem to remember hearing somewhere that he practised accountancy and book-keeping in his spare time when he wasn't on the set, gnawing on a pencil, wearing a pair of tiny spectacles and jauntily sporting one of those little accounting visors on his bonce as well.

Anyway, Willard uses his rat-soldiers to solve at least one of the big problems in his life, but the thing about having an army of anything is that, if you're not careful, it can turn against you. Willard may not have committed the terrible atrocity that gets Ben's back up big-time, but he may be held responsible for it just the same...

In BEN, the sequel to WILLARD which I accidentally watched first by accident (yes, I'm one of the big thickos from d'island!), the army of rats trained by Willard are terrorising a small American town in their search for enough food to sustain the lot of them. Well, they've been breeding like bloody rabbits, and now there's about a million of 'em living in the sewers and slyly staking out the town's supermarkets and cheese-shops. Can you imagine...?

A local boy with a heart condition called Danny befriends the rats, and their leader Ben in particular. I was glad while watching the film that I myself thankfully don't have a heart condition, or I would certainly have croaked at the sight of the horrible black sewer rats crawling freely all over the little boy's bed, while the little boy was actually in the bed. Eeuw.

The interesting thing about BEN, apart from the rather mushy award-winning theme tune being sung by a certain Michael Jackson, is that it stars a young Meredith Baxter as Danny's beautiful older sister Eve, the nearest thing to a caring, supervising adult that he possesses.

This lady went on to become the Meredith Baxter Birney who starred as the blonde Mom in super-sappy but enjoyable sitcom FAMILY TIES, also starring Michael J. Fox, Tina Yothers, Michael Gross and I forget who played Mallory, the cute but cerebrally-challenged brunette older sister. I'll look that up in a minute. (Justine Bateman, bingo!)

Anyway, Danny spends enough time down in the sewers with Ben and his billions of relatives to give any self-respecting parent a heart attack. Let's hope that when the authorities head down into said sewers with their flame-throwers and their rifles that Danny's all tucked-up in bed like a good little boy. Well, where else would he be...?

The spine-chillingly good news is that both these stomach-churning cult horror films are coming out in a superb Blu-Ray Limited Edition box-set on October the 30th 2017. This is, of course, just in time for Halloween and it comes courtesy of the jolly- jolly macabre, haha!- folks at SECOND SIGHT FILMS in conjunction with AIM PUBLICITY.

Each box-set comes complete with a free sample of rat poison and a year's subscription to RAT-FANCIERS MONTHLY. What I've just said is a lie, by the way, a complete and utter fabrication, so feel free to disregard if you wish. And, erm, sorry if I got your hopes up. Both movies just come with regular extra features. They're still pretty good, though.

I'm hungry now, anyway, after all that writing. I quite fancy a snack of cheese and crackers. Wait a minute, who's that furry little bundle of mischief foraging around in the bread-bin? You're a long way from home, Mr. Smithers...


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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