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Monday November 30th 2020

Willard | 1971

Willard film location: Lucerne Boulevard, Hancock Park, Midtown Los Angeles
Willard film location: the old mansion of Willard Stiles and his mother: Lucerne Boulevard, Windsor Square, Midtown Los Angeles

This modest little 1970s horror pic proved effective enough not only to merit a 2003 makeover (with Crispin Glover) but also to spawn a sequel (Ben), boasting a Michael Jackson theme song. One of the few romantic ballads dedicated to a homicidal rat.

Socially awkward and deeply embittered Willard Stiles (Bruce Davison), living with his ailing and demanding mother (Elsa Lanchester) finds companionship with a quickly-growing community of feral rats in his basement.

When he loses his job, Willard is determined not to give up the old family home under any circumstances. And how right he was.

The rather creepy Stiles residence is a very desirable Queen Anne-style property in the heart of LA's swanky Windsor Square district of Midtown. It's the Higgins-Verbeck-Hirsch Mansion, 637 South Lucerne Boulevard, built in 1902 for a Chicago grain merchant called Hiram Higgins. It was designed by John C Austin, the same architect responsible for such LA landmarks as the Griffith Observatory, Shrine Auditorium, and City Hall.

The house wasn't built on this spot, though. It originally stood at 2619 Wilshire Boulevard, on the northeast corner of South Rampart Boulevard, about two and a half miles east toward MacArthur Park. In 1924, new owner Howard Verbeck had the house mounted on trucks and trundled to its present location. As if that were not ostentation enough, Verbeck held a party inside the house as it was being moved.

Its foreboding air saw it make screen appearances in sequel Ben as well as the likes of Anthony Hickox's 1988 directorial debut Waxwork, Witchboard and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. It's since retired from showbiz to become a regular private home.