Willard and Ben from Scream Factory are for kids and VHS purists only.
I recently received Blu-ray copies of both Willard and Ben, both out on May 16 from Scream Factory. I feel that these releases would have been better as a pair released in the same package, but I'm not not a distributor and can't really tell them how to run their business.
While Willard is regarded as a classic in certain circles, Ben is much more geared to children with its child protagonist/new leader of the rats, Danny. Both films are PG-rated schlock that I can only recommend to purists or families looking to introduce their wee ones to gentle horror.
In Willard, the titular character, played by Bruce Davison, is at his wit's end as he's further pushed out of the company his deceased father helped found by his boss (the always-great Ernest Borgnine) and shouted at by his suffocating mother (the wonderful Elsa Lancaster, who's given nothing more to do than harangue her son). Soon, his mother dies, leaving him in a difficult financial situation, as his boss is set to buy Willard's house for underneath him for what seems like pennies on the dollar.
Willard's temporary secretary, played by the gorgeous Sondra Locke, falls in love with the neurotic worker and helps him any way she can, even if its getting him a cat, which he unloads because of his rat army. Things come to a head when Willard orders Ben, the leader of the rat army, and the rest of rodent mass to attack his boss in a satisfying denouement. However, Willard and Ben have a falling out when he tries to kill them all in a vicious betrayal.
Ben picks up at the end of Willard. It's jarring if you watch the two in the same sitting, because while Willard looks decent, Ben looks like a VHS transfer. There's a frame before the picture starts, stating that the print was the best surviving print found, but that doesn't mean they did anything to clean it up. In fact, it's probably the worst-looking Blu-ray picture I've ever seen, with major flickering, massive spots of black and darkness, and scratches.
If you're a VHS or grindhouse purist, you may enjoy this. For me, the plot and silliness of the film wasn't enough to enjoy the egregious picture. The Oscar-nominated theme song sung by a very young Michael Jackson is the best thing about the film.
In Ben, detective Kirtland (Joseph Campanella) investigates the death of Willard by the rat army. Ben becomes friends with the cute and cheerful child lead Danny (Lee Montgomery). Rat hunting and lots of nonsense occur while Danny tries to protect his new friend Ben -- and there are honestly some insanely adorable scenes with Danny and Ben -- until the rat army hunts down the detective.
Willard Bonus Features
Ben Bonus Features