Release Date: June 21st, 1972 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Phil Karlson
Written by: Gilbert Ralston
Based on: characters by Stephen Gilbert
Music by: Walter Scharf
Cast: Lee Montgomery, Joseph Campanella, Arthur O’Connell, Rosemary Murphy, Meredith Baxter, Bruce Davison (archive footage)
Bing Crosby Productions, Rysher Entertainment, Cinerama Releasing Corporation, 94 Minutes
“[singing while showing his Ben marionette to the real rat, Ben] Start the day, oh come along now, Ben. Come on out, before I count to ten. If you stay, you will miss all the fun and there’s room for everyone.” – Danny Garrison
Well, this is a very different movie than its predecessor. But I think a lot of that is due to the main character being a young, sick boy who has a passion for making marionettes and singing his own show tunes.
It’s a weird film in that the tone is completely inconsistent throughout, as on one hand, it feels like a dramatic kids movie about a sad boy that likes being creative and theatrical, while on the other hand, it’s about rats that eat people. These two things can work together but in this film, they don’t.
Also, coming off of how dark the first film ended, this comes off as even stranger and not really sure of what it’s supposed to be building off of.
That being said, I still kind of enjoyed it. Not to the point that I’d probably ever watch it again but it’s such a unique and disjointed picture that it’s hard not to be somewhat lured into it.
Also, the kid is really charming and you do feel for him and his situation, even if there are moments where he show signs of being a totally evil little shit.
This also feels more like a TV movie than an actual theatrical motion picture. It felt like a two-hour pilot to a TV series sequel of the first film. Weirdly, it plays like its trying to appeal to kids.
Anyway, a boy finds Ben, the leader of the rat army from Willard, befriends him and sees him as his only friend because the only other kid in the movie is a bully. The kid lies to his sister and mother about what’s actually going on and he even covers up for the rats when they try to eat the bully kid.
There’s not much to really sink your teeth into with this one and honestly, it’s probably most famous for the theme song Michael Jackson provided and simply because it’s the sequel to a cult classic film.
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor Willard, as well as the 2003 Willard remake with Crispin Glover.