Where on the Shelf Is...Willard?
Up this week is...WILLARD
What Is It?:
In the realm of killer animal movies, many titles have staked claim on their beasts. No matter what imitation comes after, they essentially own that animal's cinematic evil. JAWS has sharks; THE BIRDS has birds; THEM! has ants; ALLIGATOR has alligators; FROGS has amphibians; CUJO has canines; BUG has beetles; GRIZZLY has bears; SQUIRM has worms; SNAKES ON A PLANE has mothaf*ckiní snakes on a mothaf*ckiní planeÖ
And WILLARD has rats.
Daniel Mann's 1971 horror tale tells of a 27-year-old misfit (Bruce Davison) who befriends a pack of rats, led by his favorites, Ben and Socrates, and trains them to exact revenge on those that have wronged him, namely his boss (Ernest Borgnine).
The next year, it spawned a sequel, BEN, which in turn inspired this little number (the song that beat "Dueling Banjos" for a Golden Globe):
Where Is It?:
Unlike many other titles yet to be released on DVD and/or Blu-ray, WILLARD has zero controversy. There are no clear copyright issues, rights disputes or cast/crew quarrels.
In the late '90s, Paramount obtained the rights to Rysher Entertainment/Bing Crosby Productions' library. That gives them free reign to stamp their iconic mountaintop on home video releases for a number of titles, including HOGAN'S HEROES (1965-'71), WALKING TALL (1973) and, of course, WILLARD and BEN.
HOGANíS HEROES has been given numerous DVD releases from Paramount, including a wasteful and misguided "Fan Favorites" discs. The WALKING TALL TRILOGY was lent to and given the Blu-ray treatment by Shout! Factory earlier this year. Yet, WILLARD remains off shelves for no reason other than shameful studio neglect.
When Will We See It?:
I raised just that question to studio representatives, whose resident robo-monkey replied: "Unfortunately, [it's] not on our Paramount Home Entertainment release schedule."
Paramount has had a handful of opportunities to put WILLARD on DVD/Blu-ray in the past decade: the release of 2003's Crispin Glover-headlining remake; last year's 40th anniversary; even Ernest Borgnine's death last July (of renal failure, not of manic rat attack as was initially reported in the media).
Yet, there's been absolutely no indication as to when WILLARD will grace the horror section of your local video store. For now, there's a grotesque vacancy between WHITE NOISE and WOLF.
Where Can We See It?:
A sealed copy of Prism Entertainment's 1989 VHS will run you close to $150 on Amazon. A bootleg copy of said VHS is also available on YouTube.com Or, Virgin Videos currently has an import DVD on sale for just $17.99. While you're there, don't forget to pick up BEBE'S KIDS for the low-low price of $19.99!