Ben (1972)

ben poster 1972 review
4.0 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 4/10
Visuals: 4/10

Cheesy 1970s animal horror

Weird horror/not-horror movie

Movie Info

Movie Name: Ben

Studio: Bing Crosby Productions

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s):  June 21, 1972 (Premiere)/June 23, 1972 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG

ben lee montgomery rat

I love you so much Ben that I shall pen a song commemorating my love for you…

Willard Stiles (Bruce Davison) is dead but his rats led by Ben survive.  Now the city has a problem to deal with, and Cliff Kirtland (Joseph Campanella) must find a way to stop the deadly plague of killer rats.  Meanwhile a young boy named Danny Garrison (Lee Montgomery) who is suffering from a weak heart and the loss of his father has discovered a new friend in Ben…and Ben and his family could be the best friends that Danny has ever had.

Directed by Phil Karlson, Ben is an animal-attack horror movie.  A sequel to 1971’s Willard, the movie was released to negative reviews but has gained a cult following over the years.  The movie received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song (“Ben”).

I have a soft spot for Ben.  I remember seeing it before Willard, and it frequently running on UHF channels late at light.  The movie is not good…but for me, it is watchable.

ben rat attack

This is not what I signed up for!

The story for Ben is all over the place.  Ben essentially becomes the villain of Willard.  He organizes the rats against Willard (after Willard turns against him) and was a horror…and he kind of still is.  He control and runs the rats which attack and kill people who encounter them.  Willard was a revenge story, and Ben is just crazy rats overwhelming and killing people.  This is combined with a story of a lonely kid with a heart condition and his love for a sewer rat because he has no friends…it doesn’t work.

Lee Montgomery isn’t a bad kid actor and became a popular child actor at the time as a result.  Joseph Campanella is the blowhard in the movie and can’t decide if he wants to rough a little sick kid for information or stop the rats.  Bruce Davison provided some heart to Willard but only appears here in archival footage.  As a kid, I often knew this movie as the movie that stars Mrs. Keaton aka Meredith Baxter from Family Ties as Lee Montgomery’s sister.

ben meredith baxter rats

You know his sister is going to hold this one above him all his life…

The movie’s effects are pretty poor.  You have a number of real rats for scenes, but these rats are mixed with animated rats, looped video, static shots, and a really boring sewer sequence that could have really amped up the horror.  Being a PG movie (even though it is a 1970s PG), there is very little blood and guts…I wanted at least some rat leftovers gore.

Ben gets a pass from me from nostalgia, but I can also recognize it isn’t a strong movie.  The “please everyone” rating of the film probably hurt the movie more than it helped, but it is always amusing that the movie did get an Academy Award nomination despite the quality.  There were plans to do a sequel after Ben with even more rats, but that never came to fruition.  A remake of Willard was released in 2003, but alas, no Ben remake.

Related Links:

Willard (1971)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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