Willard (1971 film)

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Willard
Willard 1971.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed byDaniel Mann
Produced byCharles A. Pratt
Mort Briskin
Bing Crosby
Written byGilbert Ralston
StarringBruce Davison
Elsa Lanchester
Ernest Borgnine
Music byAlex North
CinematographyRobert B. Hauser
Editing byWarren Low
Distributed byCinerama Releasing Corporation
Release dates
  • June 18, 1971 (1971-06-18)
Running time95 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$14,545,941[1]
 
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Willard
Willard 1971.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed byDaniel Mann
Produced byCharles A. Pratt
Mort Briskin
Bing Crosby
Written byGilbert Ralston
StarringBruce Davison
Elsa Lanchester
Ernest Borgnine
Music byAlex North
CinematographyRobert B. Hauser
Editing byWarren Low
Distributed byCinerama Releasing Corporation
Release dates
  • June 18, 1971 (1971-06-18)
Running time95 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$14,545,941[1]

Willard is a 1971 horror film starring Bruce Davison and Ernest Borgnine, directed by Daniel Mann. The movie is based on the novel Ratman's Notebooks by Stephen Gilbert, and was nominated for an Edgar Award for best picture. The supporting cast included Elsa Lanchester in one of her last performances, and Sondra Locke in one of her first. The film was a sleeper hit, opening to good reviews and high box office returns. It inspired other horror films with wild animals in them, climaxing in 1975 with the hit film Jaws.

Plot[edit]

Willard is a meek social misfit with a strange affinity for rats. He lives in a large mansion, with only his cranky and decrepit mother for company.

On his 27th birthday he leaves the party out of embarrassment. While sitting outside he sees a rat and tosses it pieces of birthday cake. His mother gets upset with him for leaving the party and she scolds him later while also discussing how badly the house is falling apart. The next morning he goes out and feeds another rat (this one has babies with it) while imitating their squeaks. His mother starts telling him that he needs to kill the rats that have been running around their yard, to which Willard refuses.

When Willard goes to work he is promptly scolded by his boss Mr. Martin. Later he returns home and traps the rat family in the center rock in the pond by using a wooden plank and food, before turning on the water, taking the plank away, and letting it fill up until the water level reaches the rats (which are on top of a tall rock in the center); by then he feels guilty and puts the plank back before turning off the water. When his mother asks if he killed the rats he lies and tells her he did.

That afternoon he begins playing with a rat he names Queenie, and begins teaching them words like "food" and "empty". He sees a white rat and immediately takes a liking to it. The white rat becomes his best companion and he names it Socrates for his wisdom. Numerous other rats come to him, one of which is a giant specimen he names Ben.

At work, Mr. Martin nags at Willard, telling him he will not give him a raise, and then urges him to sell the house. Willard sneaks up to a party Mr. Martin is throwing, opens his suitcase which has rats in it, and then urges them to go get the food and ruin the party. The guests begin screaming and Willard laughs behind the bushes where he is hiding.

The next day Willard's mother dies. After this Willard is further pressured by the banks to give up the house.

Willard decides to bring Socrates and Ben to the office with him. He sets them on some shelves and tells them to be good. One of his friends at work gives him a cat named Chloe. Chloe constantly claws at the suitcase where Ben and Socrates are residing. Willard hands her off to a complete stranger and drives away. Later on it is revealed that the rat population is getting too big and he can not afford to feed them much longer. Willard decides to steal money from his boss. He orders the rats to "tear it up" and puts them in front of the door.

Later, at home, Willard gets mad at Ben and keeps putting him outside the bedroom, but Ben persists in sleeping in his room. The next day he again takes Ben and Socrates to work. One of the workers spots the rats and Mr. Martin bludgeons Socrates to death, leaving Willard devastated. Willard trains his rats to follow his commands and kills Mr. Martin after confronting him. Willard then abandons Ben, goes home and begins sealing up any holes that the rats can enter his house through. He also puts as many as he can into cages and drowns them in the small pool outside.

Willard has dinner with Joan, a girl he likes, but is rudely interrupted by Ben staring at him. He gets up and notices all of the rats running up the stairs from the basement. He orders Joan to leave and locks the door before confronting Ben. Willard stalls and begins mixing rat poison, but Ben reads the box and squeals loudly, alerting the others, some of whom attack Willard. In an act of desperation, Willard tries to hit the rat with a broom, but misses. He runs upstairs but the other rats come after him. Shutting the door, he stands there terrified. The rats begin to gnaw at the door and eventually break in and devour him. The camera zooms into a close-up of Ben and the credits roll.

Cast[edit]

Awards[edit]

Legacy[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Willard, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 11, 2012. 
  2. ^ Cover of Mad #149

External links[edit]