Directed by Daniel Mann (Our Man Flint, The Revengers, Playing for Time) and released in 1971, Willard preceded, perhaps even helped influence, a wave of movies that followed highlighting either wild animals on the attack (Jaws, Grizzly, Bug) and/or social misfits getting violent revenge on their tormentors (Carrie).
Bruce Davison stars as the title character, a sad sack who deals with beratings and belittlings from all avenues of his life, especially from his widowed mother and domineering boss. After the emotional defeat of coming home to a birthday party his mother has thrown, populated by her older friends exclusively, Willard bonds with a rat in his backyard. This one rat quickly becomes a multitude, with Willard developing a bond and establishing communication with his rodent pals. Willard then puts the rats into service righting the many wrongs he feels have burdened his existence.
The film was popular at the box office, inspiring a sequel and years later a Crispin Glover led remake. Sondra Locke appears in one of her earliest film roles as a love interest for Willard while Elsa Lanchester appears in one of her final cinematic roles as his over bearing mother. Ernest Borgnine pushes Willard around as the duplicitous, business stealing boss.