willard
Willard Stiles (Bruce Davison, Insidious: Chapter 4) is a young man with a big problem. He lives alone in a crumbling house with his ailing mother (Elsa Lanchester, Arnold, Bride of Frankenstein). His boss, Al Martin (Ernest Borgnine, Escape from New York) is a vulgar, cruel man who stole his business from Willard’s father and is now working Willard to death at his factory job.

willardbluStudio: Shout! Factory
Year: 1971
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Run time: 95 minutes
Rating: R

Audio: DTS HD MA lossless 5.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Disc Spec: 1 BD
Region: A

Bruce Davison as Willard Stiles was a perfect pick of someone in need of a friend. His mother and her friends didn’t think much of Willard. His boss, Al Martin played by Ernest Borgnine thought even less, of poor Willard. The boy in his late twenties had no one to be a friend. One day he throws part of his birthday cake at a rat in the back yard. Soon after, more and more rats come for a meal with Willard. He develops a friendship with a white rat, Socrates. They become like-minded. But two others try to become friends with Willard, for reasons beyond understanding. Joan, a part time worker with Willard sees Willard as a man whom she begins to like. And there is Ben, a dark furry little rat but one that has his own mind. The mother of Willard dies and leaves the house which has become a “rat haven” to Willard but not enough money for the tax man. Al Martin does his best to take away the house from the Willard. Then Al does something which will shake the events in his life and Willard’s best friend Socrates.

Movie Quality: 8/10

Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 1:85:1 aspect ratio. ‘Willard’ is right up there for me as one of the cult horror movies to come later in the 70’s which finally gets released in high definition. I can say that we finally are getting ‘Willard’ on BD in all it’s high definition glory. While the film does suffer a little early on with some print wear and dirt, for the most part this print is in pretty good condition. Colors pop a bit more than they did on previous releases and are more balanced, but still have a soft look to them. There is some light grain that is evident, but it never becomes an issue. Details are better than what we have seen in the past with the DVD releases but are lacking a little bit. I think a lot of this has to do with the age of the film in the pre-HD era and considering that this was shot on a low budget. This transfer is not going to win any awards, but this is the best the film has ever looked and I will take that any day.
Print Quality: 8/10

The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA l0ssless 5.1 mix. ‘Willard’ on Blu-ray is much more improved over the previous DVD release. As a longtime fan of this film, 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

  • Commentary with Actor Bruce Davison.
  • Interview [HD]
  • Theatrical Trailer [HD]
  • Still Gallery
  • Radio Spots
  • T.V. Spot

Special Features: 5/10

Final Thoughts

The old, dark house, and the young man living with his mother might bring to mind ‘Psycho’, but ‘Willard’ seems to me to be more of a story of an outcast taking revenge on the world that rejected him.
Overall Rating: 8/10