C+ Sound: C+ Extras: C Film: C
many notable B-Horror films that arrived in the late 1960s/early 1970s was Daniel
Mann’s Willard (1971) about the
title loner (Bruce Davidson) who is unhappy at home his life, mother and no
friends, suddenly finding a psychic (and psychotic) connection and friendship
with rats! A big hit, it inspired a few
imitators and a sequel. The following
year brought the actual sequel Ben
and William Grefé’s Stanley, about a
Seminole Native American (Chris Robinson) returning from a tour of duty in
Vietnam and finds out his father was murdered while he was away!
connect to nature, he comes home and is suddenly bit by a big snake, who he
names Stanley. No, he is surprisingly
not poisoned, but he’ll theoretically be filled with poison when he discovers
how his father was killed. Oooooooo, the
there, he tries to have a love relationship with Suzie (Susan Carroll) as he
slowly unravels what has happened and calls on his new friend to even up the
score. Instead of a direct rip-off, the
film tries to be different and more hip than Willard or Ben by trying
to be more socially relevant somehow.
This cuts into the suspense and makes for an uneven, but interesting
film that has more than a few leisure moments and even its own theme song
somewhat like Michael Jackson’s hit title song to Ben (which was his first solo #1 hit!) as a singer/songwriter “look
at what has happened to our country” kind of song you have to hear to believe.
the film includes supporting cast Alex Rocco (recently then of the first Godfather), Steve Alaimo, Mark Harris,
Paul Avery, Marcia Knight and Gary Crutcher, but the snake trainer deserves
some credit for making this believable and work. A few moments drag to its detriment, but it
makes for an interesting sit and because of the Vietnam angle, it was obviously
censored and ignored for political reasons for a long time, only arriving on DVD
33 years after its arrival and over a decade after the format was
introduced. Horror fans will really want
to see it, but you have to see it just to see some of these scenes.
anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is not bad for its age, as shot by
Director of Photography Clifford H. Poland Jr., A.S.C., known for his TV work
involving the aquatic (Flipper, The Aquarians) plus features like Honeymoon Of Horror, Wild Rebels and Fireball Jungle. He just
passed away in April 2008 and it is great his work is finally reissued. It has a good look that makes nature a bit
trickier to just walk through versus most films, plus some interesting
composition and editing. The print has
some fading and wear. The Dolby Digital
2.0 Mono also shows its age, with some moments of compression, but this is
pretty good considering the low budget.
Extras include stills, three featurettes (Dark Side Of Eden – The Making of Stanley, Stanley: Revisited, Stanley
Goes Hollywood) and two audio commentary tracks (one by Grefé, who moved on
to more films and the second unit on the shark sequences on the James Bond film
Live & Let Die (reviewed
elsewhere on this site) a year later, and one by screenwriter Gary Crutcher of
the infamous Superchick) making for
a well rounded disc release.
- Nicholas Sheffo