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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Phil Karlson|
|Produced by||Mort Briskin|
|Written by||Gilbert Ralston|
|Based on||Characters created|
by Stephen Gilbert
|Music by||Walter Scharf|
|Edited by||Harry Gerstad|
Bing Crosby Productions
|Distributed by||Cinerama Releasing Corporation|
Ben is a 1972 American horror film about a young boy and his pet rat, Ben. The film is a sequel to the film Willard (1971). The theme song, "Ben", is performed by singer Michael Jackson. It was also included on his 1972 album of the same title.
A lonely boy named Danny Garrison befriends Ben, the leader of the colony of rats trained by Willard Stiles. Ben becomes the boy's best friend, protecting him from bullying and keeping his spirits up in the face of a heart condition.
However, things gradually take a downward turn as Ben's colony becomes violent, resulting in several deaths. Eventually, the police destroy the rat colony with flame throwers, but Ben survives and makes his way back to Danny. Danny tends to the injured Ben, determined not to lose his friend.
- Lee Harcourt Montgomery as Danny Garrison
- Joseph Campanella as Cliff Kirtland
- Arthur O'Connell as Billy Hatfield
- Rosemary Murphy as Beth Garrison
- Meredith Baxter as Eve Garrison
- Kaz Garas as Joe Greer
- Paul Carr as Kelly
- Richard Van Vleet as Reade
- Kenneth Tobey as engineer
- James Luisi as Ed
- Lee Paul as Carey
- Norman Alden as policeman
- Scott Garrett as Henry Gray
- Arlen Stuart as Mrs. Gray
- Ric Drasin as George
- Bruce Davison as Willard Stiles (archive footage)
- Ben Crowe as himself
- St. Benjamin as the baller
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The film's theme song "Ben" is performed by Lee Montgomery in the film and by Michael Jackson during the final scene and ending credits. Jackson's recording of the song became a #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" from 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's Number Ones album (2003).
Pearl Jam's song "Rats" refers to the film Ben; the last line of the song is an obvious reference to the Michael Jackson song "Ben". The line, "Ben, the two of us need look no more", is repeated multiple times as the song fades out.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 1.5 stars out of 4 and wrote, "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." 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." Variety wrote that the film had the "same type of suspenseful action" as the original, and that Lee Montgomery "plays his part to perfection." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 3.5 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." Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film "is equally scary and diverting as 'Willard' while being more serious and ambitious." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post thought that the film was "not much of an improvement on 'Willard'" and had "no standout horror sequences." Leonard Maltin's film guide gave the film a negative review, awarding it 1 1/2 out of 4 stars, panning the film's gory visuals.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- In 1973, at the Golden Globes Awards, Michael Jackson won the Best Original Song-Motion Picture Award for "Ben".
- Canby, Vincent (June 24, 1972). "Ben (1972) Film: In 'Ben,' a Boy Befriends a Rat". The New York Times.
- Ebert, Roger (June 28, 1972). 'Ben'. RogerEbert.com Retrieved May 7, 2019.
- Canby, Vincent (June 24, 1972). "Film: In 'Ben,' a Boy Befriends a Rat". The New York Times. 19.
- "Film Reviews: Ben". Variety. June 14, 1973. 24.
- Siskel, Gene (June 26, 1972). "'Ben...'" Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 13.
- Thomas, Kevin (June 23, 1972). "An Army of Rats in L.A." Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 8.
- Arnold, Gary (June 27, 1972). "Eek! It's 'Ben'". The Washington Post. B9.
- Maltin, Leonard (September 2012). Leonard Maltin's 2013 Movie Guide. New York, New York: Penguin Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-451-23774-3.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-07-30.
- "Ben - Golden Globes". Golden Globes. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 14 November 2017.