Quantcast

Ben (Blu-ray Review)

Willard was a really solid success, playing in theaters for quite some time. Forgotten, kinda, to many, is that the film produced a sequel called Ben (After the lead rat in the original film). But, its not really forgotten, due to one factor.  Had the film not had a theme song that was done by the Jackson Five’s and later King of Pop, Michael Jackson, it could have very well been forgotten to the annals of film history (Except nowadays, we remember everything nowadays).  That song brought an undeserving prestige with it as it was a big hit for Jackson (one of his earliest solo works) and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. It didn’t win, but Scream Factory wins in bringing this ratty sequel to the Blu-ray format to pair with its release of Willard. Ben will be available on May 16th as well.

Film 

Detective sergeant Cliff Kirtland 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.

Ben tries or thinks its holding onto the concept of the first film and then adding a whole kinda creepy kid avenue to it by making the protagonist much younger. However, this is the kinda thing where the idea works for one movie and once you start stretching it, the holes start to poke much bigger, things get a bit more ridiculous and the whole thing turns rather silly. I mean, there are times where I thought the rat might actually speak. Hell, maybe it’d been better if that happened.

I’d actually like to nominate this film for a Rifftrax or Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return season 12 episode.  Its the perfect candidate. And the film features a lot of quiet moments for laughter or riff bits. Many background imagery and just weird sorta proceedings occur in the film and you sorta are looking to your left or right for a wisecrack to be made. All in all, just the look, the feel, the execution (Even runtime) makes it feels like it would be a perfect match.

One weird vibe I got watching the film was that its familial relations reminded me a lot of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. This revolves around a boy whose immediate family consists of just his mom and sister. He’s also into making marionette puppets and is really into the rats. Later on, during the film’s gruesome rat eradication finale, Meredith Baxter’s (Playing the older sister) heroics and the two trying to escape rats along with fire, feels a lot like Trish and Tommy Jarvis in the Jason Voorhees slasher.

Ben is definitely no Willard and tries playing the straight horror film route, but winds up being too silly or too boring through it all. It actually kinda works into a little used subgenre of the family horror film.  I showed it to my 5 year old and he was fine.  Actually he kinda like it, but probably because he thought he was watching something a little above what he’s supposed to.  Most notable for the song, there are some okay moments to this one, but aside from that, but its just very ho hum, not incompetent but kinda plain and boring. Its fun to see a very young Meredith Baxter escaping rats, but overall this is middle of the road at best. I’ve seen much much worse, but this one really lends itself to wanting a riff.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Ben debuts with an HD transfer from the best surviving print from the archives, which a disclaimer card stating as much is played before the start of the film.  With what’s given, you can see this isn’t the most ideal elements, but the salvage job is very commendable. While its a little washed out and bit soft (Some of it can give the appearance that the focus is a little off), there is still plenty of detail to be had and some spots promote a pretty bold image.

Depth:  A little on the flatter side but it isn’t bad. Movement is cinematic with a very minimal about of blur during frantic motions.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty deep with plenty of detail being lost in dark scenes or dark attire. The rats’ hair manages to hold up against all odds (I think they just got better lighting and some good close ups). No crushing witnessed on this viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are a bit washed out like a lot of the image, though blues do provide some strength as well as some of the more poppy colors that would look stronger regardless. This is probably the area (Along with blacks) that has been most affected by the weaker elements in this print.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones look a little bit flushed or washed out with times feeling like the transfer is a little overcompensatory in trying adjust for that. Facial details are stronger in close-ups than anything further away, but this isn’t dreadful or anything.

Noise/Artifacts: The image is a bit grainy with consistent specs/dirt and a scratch here or there.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Original Mono 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Ben carries a pretty decent mono tracks that gets the job done. There are a little bit of blending moments here and there, but overall this is a good enough experience for the film. If anything it gets a hair deeper than Willard’s track did.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are solid, with some analog hiss and whatnot carried over onto it.

Extras 

Ben comes with the DVD edition of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Actor Lee Montgomery

The Kid With The Rat (HD, 9:19) – An Interview with actor Lee Montgomery. He talks about landing the film, being a bit star struck with Bruce Davison on set and then not seeing him again until recently years ago. For being a kid at the time of shooting, he recollects very clearly and confidently his memories of the film and the costars he worked with.

Theatrical Trailers (HD, 3:31) 

TV Spots (SD, :43) 

Ben/Willard Double Feature TV Spots (SD, 1:32) 

Radio Spot (HD, :29) 

Still Gallery (HD, 2:32) 

Summary 

Ben doesn’t ever reach the heights of its predecessor Willard, but having just the one on Blu-ray and not the other just isn’t good for the completionist. While not a great companion, it should be around with it. The Blu-ray does what it can with its video transfer, looking pretty good given the circumstances and the audio is just fine as well. The interview and commentary provide a nice little insight (though, nabbing Meredith Baxter for an interview on this would’ve been dynamite!) to compliment the film. This is for the completionist and the fan(?) of the film and if you’re diving it, its a solid purchase at the right price.

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Ben (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Chas Speed

    I was lucky enough to see this an a theater and it was an absolute riot! It a very funny exploitation film.