When detective sergeant Cliff Kirtland (Joseph Campanella, Meteor) investigates the horrifying murder of Willard Stiles by a band of rats, he discovers that the rats are now an organized army, and he must destroy the murderous rodents before it is too late. But the rats, led by Ben, the only survivor of the Willard attack, take to the challenge with full force and little fear.

benbluStudio: Shout! Factory
Year: 1972
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Run time: 94 minutes
Rating: R

Audio: DTS HD MA lossless 2.0 mix
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Disc Spec: 1 BD / 1 DVD
Region: A

Phil Karlson directed this immediate sequel to ‘Willard’ that picks up where that film ended. With the police at Willard’s house, and Ben the rat leading his army of rats through the city, raiding supermarkets and causing general havoc, eventually finding refuge in the city sewers. In the meantime, a sickly and lonely boy named Danny(played by Lee Montgomery) befriends Ben, and they become loyal friends. This is the story of a lonely boy and his rat. This really is an odd little story, ‘Ben’ is not painted as evil, just needing to find a place for his humongous family. There are many humorous scenes in this, such as women in towels running out of a health spa from rats. Seeing a young Meredith Baxter stumbling along and losing her glasses in a filthy sewer is fun too.

There is much inadvertent hilarity to be gained from watching this too, such as six foot tall grown men apparently succumbing to maybe six rats climbing on them and dying for no apparent reason. It is some things like this that make ‘Ben’ a special kind of cult film.

Movie Quality: 8/10

Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 1:85:1 aspect ratio. It appears that Shout had a few issues trying to locate the original source print, so they had to use an archived print for this Blu-ray release. ‘Ben’ is not as good looking as ‘Willard’, which usually it tends to be the other way around where sequels improve upon the original film. The image quality takes a slight hit, but not as bad as one person would think. I found the color palette to be fairly natural looking. I did have an issue with details lacking in the clarity department. Another issue that I had was with the blacks not looking solid, but having more of a lighter look to them. There is some dirt and specs throughout, considering the low budget and age of the film.
Print Quality: 7/10

The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA l0ssless 2.0 mix. ‘Ben’ on Blu-ray is much more improved over the previous DVD release. As a longtime fan of ‘Willard’ and ‘Ben’, I am glad to finally be able to hear certain sounds come through the rears which were not a presence in the soundfield before. Considering that this is a film from the 70’s, this is a more front and center audio experience. Dialogue is always focused to the center channel and very crisp sounding.
Audio Quality: 9/10

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary with Actor Lee Montgomery
  • Interview with Actor Lee Montgomery
  • Theatrical Trailers [HD]
  • TV Spots [HD]
  • BEN/WILLARD Double Feature Trailer
  • TV spot [HD]
  • Radio Spot [HD]
  • Still Gallery [HD]

Special Features: 8/10

Final Thoughts

You can compliment ‘Ben’ that it dispenses with ‘Willard’ and is a film in its own right that stands up on its own hind legs but the original featuring Bruce Davison was more character driven.
Overall Rating: 8/10