Ben (film)

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Ben poster.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhil Karlson
Written byGilbert Ralston
Based onCharacters created
by Stephen Gilbert
Produced byMort Briskin
StarringLee Montgomery
Joseph Campanella
Arthur O'Connell
CinematographyRussell Metty
Edited byHarry Gerstad
Music byWalter Scharf
Bing Crosby Productions
(Rysher Entertainment)
Distributed byCinerama Releasing Corporation
Release date
  • June 23, 1972 (1972-06-23)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States

Ben is a 1972 American drama-thriller film directed by Phil Karlson and starring Lee Montgomery, Joseph Campanella, and Arthur O'Connell. It is a sequel to the film Willard (1971).[1] The film follows a lonely boy named Danny Garrison who befriends Willard's former pet rat named Ben. Ben becomes the boy's best friend, protecting him from bullying and keeping his spirits up in the face of a heart condition. However, Ben forms an army of deadly rodents while the police attempt to control it.

Ben was released on June 23, 1972 by Cinerama Releasing Corporation, and received mixed reviews from the critics.

American singer Michael Jackson performs the theme song of the film, also titled "Ben". The song is also included on his 1972 album of the same name.


A lonely boy named Danny Garrison befriends Ben, the leader of the colony of rats trained by the late Willard Stiles. Ben becomes the boy's best friend, protecting him from bullying and keeping his spirits up in the face of a severe heart condition.

However, things gradually take a downhill turn as Ben's colony becomes violent in its search for food, resulting in several deaths. Eventually, the police destroy the rat colony with flame throwers after trapping them in the sewers, but Ben somehow survives and makes his way back to Danny. A tearful and overjoyed Danny tends to the injured Ben, determined not to lose his friend.


Theme song[edit]

The film's theme song "Ben" is performed by Lee Montgomery in the film and by Michael Jackson during the final scene and end credits. Jackson's recording of the song became a number 1 pop hit single. Later included as the title track on Jackson's second solo album, Ben, it won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (it lost to "The Morning After" by Maureen McGovern from another 1972 film, The Poseidon Adventure).

The song is calm and mellow, which contrasts with the horror content of the film. A live recorded version was released on the album The Jacksons Live! (1981) and eventually appeared on Michael Jackson's album Number Ones (2003).

Crispin Glover recorded a version of the song for the soundtrack of the 2003 remake of Willard. A music video for this version was produced, which also featured Glover.


Ben received mixed reviews from critics. It holds a rating of 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 10 reviews.[2]

Among the more positive reviews was that of Variety, which wrote that the film has the "same type of suspenseful action" as the original, and that Lee Montgomery "plays his part to perfection".[3] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 312 stars out of 4, and stated, "Ben succeeds as a horror show because it contains the requisite number of rat attacks with the camera holding on victims covered with perhaps two dozen, clinging, scratching, and biting rodents. Omigod, he's covered with rats. Eeeech! But Ben goes beyond mere thrills into the realm of solid drama because of the superb performance of Lee Harcourt Montgomery as Danny Garrison who befriends Ben, the leader of the rat pack terrorizing the city".[4] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film "is equally scary and diverting as Willard while being more serious and ambitious".[5]

However, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 112 stars out of 4, writing: "This isn't a thriller but a geek movie. In a thriller, we're supposed to be scared by some awesome menace to mankind—the Green Blob maybe, or Big Foot, or the Invincible Squid and his implacable enemy, red wine sauce. But in a geek movie, the whole idea is to be disgusted because the actors have rats all over them".[6] Vincent Canby of The New York Times said: "The way in which you will respond to Ben will depend on a number of variables, including how you feel about the possibility of Los Angeles shutting down, trick photography, dreadful acting by a dreadful cast, the decline and fall of Phil Karlson (The Phenix City Story) as a director and a screenplay that never has the courage to acknowledge its comic impulses".[7] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post thought that the film is "not much of an improvement on Willard" and has "no standout horror sequences".[8] Leonard Maltin's film guide also gave the film a negative review, awarding it 112 out of 4 stars, and panning the film's gory visuals.[9]

The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in the following list:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Canby, Vincent (June 24, 1972). "Ben (1972) Film: In 'Ben', a Boy Befriends a Rat". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Ben". Rotten Tomatoes.
  3. ^ "Film Reviews: Ben". Variety. June 14, 1973. 24.
  4. ^ Siskel, Gene (June 26, 1972). "'Ben...'" Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 13.
  5. ^ Thomas, Kevin (June 23, 1972). "An Army of Rats in L.A." Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 8.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 28, 1972). 'Ben'. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  7. ^ Canby, Vincent (June 24, 1972). "Film: In 'Ben', a Boy Befriends a Rat". The New York Times. 19.
  8. ^ Arnold, Gary (June 27, 1972). "Eek! It's 'Ben'". The Washington Post. B9.
  9. ^ Maltin, Leonard (September 2012). Leonard Maltin's 2013 Movie Guide. New York, New York: Penguin Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-451-23774-3.
  10. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-07-30.

External links[edit]