MICHEL: I am doing nothing. Ben, however, has dropped dead from laughter.
Michel refers to the 1972 drama-thriller film Ben, and its theme song. The film, directed by Phil Karlson, is about a lonely boy, played by Lee Harcourt Montgomery, who befriends Ben, the leader of a colony of rats. Ben becomes the boy’s best friend, protecting him from bullies and keeping his spirits up. However, Ben’s colony turns violent, resulting in several deaths. The rat colony is destroyed by the police, but Ben survives. The film is a sequel to the 1971 horror film Willard, based on the novel Ratman’s Notebooks by Gilbert Ralston.
The theme song, written by Don Black and Walter Scharf, is also called “Ben”. It was performed by Lee Harcourt Montgomery in the film, and by Michael Jackson over the closing credits. Although the film received mixed reviews, and was considered pretty oddball, listeners loved the tender theme. Jackson’s single reached #1 in the charts, making it his first #1 solo hit.
One of Jackson’s most re-released songs, often included on compilation albums, many people don’t realise the sweet song is addressed to a killer rat. It’s a little bit surprising that Michel knows – he didn’t live in the US when the film and song came out – but he seems to have quite an extensive knowledge of American pop culture.