A few weeks ago, TCM aired a late night double feature with 1971's Willard, and its 1972 sequel Ben. I had vague memories of seeing promotion for the 2003 re-make with Crispin Glover, but never saw it, nor knew at the time of the original. Rats don't really bother me, although I don't want to find one in my house, I did briefly house sit a friends two white rats and was impressed with how smart they were and how excited they would get when I'd bring them blueberries.
I thoroughly enjoyed Willard, especially it's seventies feel and it's blend of both scary and silly. I was also impressed with the cast which included Sondra Locke, Ernest Borgnine and the great Elsa Lanchester who I also enjoyed in Bell, Book and Candle which I posted about last year. (HERE:)
I also pleasantly surprised to see Bruce Davison, an actor I first saw in 1989's Longtime Companion. I have seen Davison in a number of films in the last decade or two, but wasn't at all familiar with his early work, especially his string of successful seventies films.
In Longtime Companion, Davison was one of the older cast members, but in Willard, he is the young one, both naive and angry, especially after the death of his mother. Davison is also incredibly hot, even with hundreds of rodents as his co-stars. Bullied and mistreated by his boss (Borgnine) Willard uses his favorite rat Ben, to help achieve his revenge. Ben gets his own revenge, turning on Willard in the movies climax after Willard decides he needs to clear his home of the hundreds of rats he had previously welcomed in.
Although there was no nudity in Willard, (except the rats of course...) I of course was curious if Davison had any nude scenes on his resume. He did! Check out my Actors & SKIN post featuring Davison's body of work in a separate below.
It always amazes me the nexus which connects many of the pieces that I do for FH. When I watched Ben, the 1972 sequel to Willard, I didn't know the connections that would be made. When I was a kid, I remember hearing that Michael Jackson's song Ben was written about a rat. I don't really remember it registering though. Jackson was eccentric so it was not really shocking, and I had no real reference, having not seen the film.
The song was indeed sung by Danny (Lee Montgomery) in the film, and although I didn't have a connection to the film, or the rat, I did have a connection when I was younger to the lyrics. Not only did I sing it a few times myself, I still have a VHS copy of Billy Gilman singing it on the 2001 Michael Jackson Anniversary concert and special. I remember the special for many reasons beyond the performances. It was filmed just days before September 11th, and aired shortly after in November 2001.
The special became a bit of an escape for me at the time, and although not a huge fan of Jackson, I was a fan of a lot of his music and loved the special and the huge music stars that appeared. Some of you may remember there was some controversy over how long it took to film it, and with Whitney Houston, and whether her chest was edited for TV given how thin she was during the time of her performance. In addition to the great performances, it was also a bit surreal to see Jackson sitting next to the stage flanked by Elizabeth Taylor and Macaulay Culkin.
My favorite performance of the night was definitely Billy's, and the then 13 year old's performance of Ben. Billy's belted the hell out of the song, and I replayed that VHS tape over and over. I had not heard of Billy when I first saw him on TV, but later learned he was a hugely successful country artist at the time with his 2000 song One Voice a chart topper on both the country and Billboard charts.
Inspired by country singer Ty Herndon coming out in 2014, Gilman posted his own coming out video shortly after Herndon's video went public. Although I am watching and enjoying The Voice this season, I have haven't watched in a few seasons and sadly missed Billy on the shows eleventh season in 2016. Billy was the season's runner-up and thankfully, most of his performances are on Youtube if anyone wants to check them out.
Today's posts did not start out to be all 'rat' themed. After watching Willard, I was inspired to seek out more of Bruce Davison's work and it was only going to be one post. But... after watching Ben, it was clear there was much more to explore. The actor playing Ben's friend, little Danny Garrison was familiar to me initially, but after a google, I discovered it wasn't the first time I enjoyed Lee Montgomery on screen.
With Meredith Baxter in Ben (1972)
In my quest to watch the entire collection of Bette Davis, I watched Burnt Offerings about a year ago. Davis played several mysterious and eccentric older ladies in horror films late in her career and Burnt Offerings is one of the better ones. The film has developed a bit of a cult following, especially after it's 2015 Blu-ray release.
Burnt Offerings (1976)
In Burnt Offerings with Oliver Reed (above) and Bette Davis (below)
I also remember Lee from his brief appearances on Dallas. Lee played Christopher Atkins room mate Jerry in the shows sixth season, and I bought the season on DVD in order to make some caps of the many appearances of Atkins' blue speedo. Unfortunately Montgomery never joined him in the pool, but I remember wondering who he was as he looked incredibly hot in the scene in which he wore his sunglasses up on his head.
In addition to Dallas, Montgomery made a number of guest appearances on TV in the seventies and eighties. Some of his most notable appearances included roles on; Fame, Columbo, Family Ties, CHiPs, Kojak, Adam-12 and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The actor also had a few more features on his resume, the last of which was The Legend of Wolf Lodge in 1998. According to wiki, Montgomery retired from acting and has been working in real estate in California. He has resurfaced at a few Hollywood Collector Shows and in an interview on the special features of the Burnt Offerings Blu-ray.
Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985)
Montgomery is maybe best know for his role alongside Helen Hunt, Jonathan Silverman and Sarah Jessica Parker in the totally eighties flick Girls Just Want To Have Fun. Based on the 1983 song by Cyndi Lauper, Lauper's version of the hit song isn't actually a part of the film. Due to licensing reasons, a dubbed version is used.
Montgomery plays the perfect 80's rom com hunk. Not only incredibly hot, he also dances and plays basketball shirtless. The directly also wisely let the young actor keep his chest hair which was clearly a hit given all the images when you google Montgomery's name.
Actor Bruce Davison made his first appearance on the big screen in 1969's The Last Summer. Based on the novel by Evan Hunter, The Last Summer follows Sandy, (Barbara Hershey) Peter (Richard Thomas) and Dan (Davison) in a coming of age tale set during one summer on Fire Island. The film marked not only Davison's big screen debut, it also marked his first nude scene on film.
Last Summer (1969)
Although there is a bit of sexual fun and exploration, the movie remains relatively tame until it's closing scenes. Held down by Sandy and Peter, Davison's character rapes Rhonda, a young girl who had been hanging around, looking to make friends. The scene originally brought the film an X rating.
The film;s producers, not wanting an X rating to detract from the story, edited down the scene in order to get an R rating before it's release. The movie's only version is a VHS version of the R rated version and the X-rated version has never been released.
The Strawberry Statement (1970)
What's not to love about a film that presents it's opening credits over a group of University rowers showering and heading naked in the locker room. I didn't quite make it all the way through The Strawberry Statement, a film focused on the counterculture and student revolts in the 1960's. Davison plays Simon, a student (and one of the shoering rowers) at a fiction San Francisco University who manages to find love and trouble in between protests and young rebellion.
The Lathe of Heaven (1980)
In this science fiction television movie from 1980, Davison plays George, a man whose dreams have the power to change reality. George attempts to prevent himself from dreaming fearing the effects. George's powers are then used by a doctor, looking to use the dreams for his own gain.
The Misfit Brigade (1987)
In 1943, this motley tank crew is sent on a suicide mission behind enemy lines to destroy a Soviet train that's carrying fuel for the Red Army.