Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Bride of Frankenstein vs The Killer Rats, or Thoughts on Willard

Absolutely not for the musophobic, Willard (1971), tells the tale of a lonely, Norman Bates-esque 27 year-old bachelor living in a rat-infested Victorian mansion with his poor sainted mother, as portrayed by Elsa Lanchester, who you know as the Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and also Mary Poppins (1963) and Murder by Death (1976).  From director Daniel Mann of Our Man Flint (1966), Willard is played by Bruce Davison, who went on to portray Senator Kelly in X-Men (2002), feature in The Lords of Salem (2013), and also George A. Romero’s anthology TV series Tales From the Darkside, the original V (1985), Star Trek: Voyager (1996), Seinfeld (1996) and LOST (2006).
The plot is almost Shakespearian (almost); Willard is the overworked and underpaid rightful heir being cheated out of his father’s company by a deceitful uncle or in this case, his father’s business partner as played by Hollywood legend Ernest Borgnine as Al Martin, Willard’s churlish boss.  Fortunately Willard has a natural affinity for rats, they become his surrogate friends as he trains them to do his bidding and attack on command.
Being a movie from 1971, you can be assured that you are watching analog, actual non-CGI rats that had to be trained and wrangled, scurrying around the sets and swarming all over the actors.  Ernest Borgnine claimed in interviews that he had to overcome his fear of rats prior to filming, and the rat performers get just about as much screen time as the humans.
Watch out for a pre-Clint Eastwood Sondra Locke as Joan, a friendly co-worker.  You may remember Ernest Borgnine as the voice of Mermaidman in SpongeBob Squarepants, and also classic movies including Bad Day at Black Rock (1954), Marty (1955), The Dirty Dozen (1966), Ice Station Zebra (1968), The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and a stellar IMDb page with over 200 credits that spans over 60 years.
There was a sequel named after one of the rats, Ben (1972), with a  theme song by Michael Jackson and a 2003 remake with a perfectly cast Crispin Glover.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).