Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rare Flix: Willard (1971)

In Mondo Bizarro tradition, I cover the original Classic years after the knock-offs.  Before we got more killer rats (twice), people with spiders and a Chinese guy with snake pals, we get the Film that started it all.  The reason for this gap: Willard is hard to find.  I saw someone with a Midnite Movies 2-Pack of Willard and Ben, but those went out-of-print years ago.  I'm sad.  Thanks to a site who's name I won't mention (just in case), I was finally able to watch the original Film.  Yes, I do know that there is a Remake from 2003 and I will get to it later.  In the Film, a socially-awkward man finds some new friends in some little rats.  However, his crappy life threatens to turn even crappier.  When his life starts to fall apart, how will he react?  If you guessed 'killer rat attacks,' then you guessed right.  Good for you.  Have a chocolate bar.  To find out how it all plays out, read on...
Willard (a pre-X-Men Bruce Davison) is living in a big house with his Mother, but his Dad is dead.  On top of that, his Boss is a jerk...
...and stole the company from Willard's dad.  Damn you, Borgnine!

Fun Fact: the 2003 Remake used photos of Davison from the 1971 Film as new Willard's Dad.  Neat.
Did I mention that Willard REALLY loves his new friends?  Because, well, he does.  ALOT!

He even starts to take them to work- although it is mainly just Ben and Socrates.
Things start to take a turn for the better- in spite of his Mother dying- when he finds a kindred soul at work.  Naturally, this can't last.
It doesn't.  The Boss wants him to sell the House to make some Condos (some things never change!) and fires him to help expedite the process.  He also fires the Temp/Love Interest, but that could be a coincidence.
Willard gets desperate and angry.  This culminates in him sicking his now-large rat army on Borgnine and killing him.  Still better than starring in Laser Mission.
Unfortunately, all 'good things' must come to an end as Willard tries to get rid of the rats when he thinks that he can now live a new life without them.  Plus, they would tie him to the murder.

Ben takes this badly and sicks the rat army on him, killing Willard.  Plus, he wanted his own Film.  Starring Role, bitches!  The End.
After all this time, it is...pretty good.  Bear in mind that I'm watching it about 43 years after it was made, so my experience is different.  For Audiences back in this Film's heyday, it was certainly shocking in alot of ways.  Seeing animals actually attack people was a pretty big novelty for the time and this would certainly inspire others.  Would we get Jaws without this Film?  Probably.  Even so, the success of this Film was so great that a bunch of imitators/inspired-films would appear.  On the plus side, this one has less visible murder of Animals than Food of the Gods or Killer Snakes.  The Film is a pretty nice Character Piece, even if it has all of the makings of a medium-budget TV Movie.  To be fair, of course, the Version I found was a VHS-Rip, so it is possible that there are nicer-looking Prints out there.  Willard is a big piece of Film History, even if it isn't remembered as well as stuff like Jaws, nor is it treated as such.  Seriously, why did I have to go to a Streaming Site to watch the Film?  Is there a Rights Issue?  In summary, it is worth a look if you haven't seen the origin of stuff like Food of the Gods or Kiss of the Tarantula (not to be confused with Black Belly of the Tarantula).  As for how it matches up to the Remake, well, I'll find out soon enough.  In the meantime, enjoy the Italian Poster...
Up next, I cover a Film that has been a long time coming for Halloween.  What happens when you mix Audience Confusion, Robots and the Druids?  Stay tuned...

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