Movie Review: WILLARD Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack

WILLARD is based on the novel Ratman’s Notebooks by Stephen Gilbert. The movie was directed by Daniel Mann and stars Bruce Davison, Sondra Locke, Elsa Lanchester and Ernest Borgnine.

In Willard, Willard Stiles (Bruce Davison) is a young man with a big problem. He lives alone in a crumbling house with his ailing mother (Elsa Lanchester). His boss, Al Martin (Ernest Borgnine) is a vulgar, cruel man who stole his business from Willard’s father and is now working Willard to death at his factory job. Lonely, depressed and isolated, Willard is on the verge of a breakdown when he makes a new friend: Ben, one of the many rats who inhabit his dilapidated home. Not only can Willard communicate with the rodent, but he can actually command him to do his bidding. Using Ben and his furry friends as instruments of retaliation, Willard commands his pets to carry out his vengeance…

This 1971 movie follows Willard, a socially awkward young man who is dealing with way too much drama in his life. His sick mother is constantly nagging at him about something that needs to be done around the house and his sleazy boss takes advantage of him day in and day out. There’s also a whole lot more going on with his manipulative boss! All of this headache and heartache leads to Willard eventually snapping where his only outlet of happiness is playing with his pet rats. His weird hobby ends up turning deadly once Willard can’t take anymore abuse from the ones intruding on his personal life and he has his trained army of rats to help him get some sweet revenge. Even though the young man is able to get back at the people who hurt him, his story is a sad one that comes with a tragic ending.

Okay, we’ve gotten plenty of movies about killer rats over the years but none quite like this one. I guess Willard kind of paved the way for so many others to follow, including its very own sequel Ben that would release one year later. Over the years, so many live animals have been phased out of movies and replaced with CGI, so anytime you get an old school creature feature like this, it’s a treasure. I really liked the story which follows this rather innocent young man who doesn’t quite fit in with everyone else so he makes friends with rats. The two rodents closest to him are Socrates and Ben and they definitely form an unusual relationship. The performances were all really good (human and rodent) with the standouts being Bruce Davison as this likable misfit and Ernest Borgnine who plays his sleazy and extremely unlikable boss. Director Daniel Mann did a great job capturing these performances as well as the eerie vibe that the army of rats set off.

The front of the packaging features the artwork you see up top and the back includes movie details, some images and list of special features. The reverse sleeve features an image from the movie. Both discs also include their own individual artwork. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. The picture and sound quality for the high-definition disc were crisp and clear. The picture and sound quality for the standard-definition disc were really good. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio. Scream Factory did a fantastic job with this 4K scan of the original camera negative.

Bottom line is, as much as I’ve heard about Willard over the years, this was a first time watch for me and I really enjoyed this strange little horror classic about a boy and his rat. There’s so much good about this old horror romp because it’s able to get under the viewer’s skin without using loads of blood, gore and special effects. Things so many horror movies depend heavily on. What Willard relies heavily on are the dozens and dozens of rats and wrangling used throughout the watch as well as the central character’s interaction and relationship with them. It’s a weird relationship that’s enough to give any viewer the heabie jeebies! Willard deserves this awesome upgrade and finally makes its Blu-ray and DVD debut on May 16th and this one is definitely worth checking out.

Distributor: Scream Factory

Run Time: 95 Minutes

Rated: PG

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.85:1)

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

DVD Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)

DVD Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Special Features: Not only did Scream Factory give this cult classic a high-def upgrade but they were also able to throw in some nice extras. There’s a great interview with actor Bruce Davison who played Willard. He talks about how he got the gig and his experience making the movie. There’s also some audio commentary, original trailer, TV and radio spots and some images.

  • NEW 4K scan of the original camera negative
  • NEW audio commentary with actor Bruce Davison
  • NEW interview with actor Bruce Davison (12:27)
  • Theatrical Trailer (02:23)
  • TV Spot (01:02)
  • Radio Spots (01:26)
  • Still Gallery (05:52)


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