Howard The Duck

Howard The Duck

Good news for fans of cult films from the 1980's: Howard The Duck, the box-office dud from producer George Lucas, is finally getting the DVD treatment. Arriving March 10 of this year, the Disc will feature numerous Featurettes ranging from Special Effects to a Retrospective documentary and it will be there first time the United States has seen the film in the digital format. And if I do say so myself: It is about time. The film is classic 80's weird: An extra-terrestrial duck named Howard, who lives on a planet exactly like ours in every way except the dominant species are Humanoid Ducks, is transported violently to the planet Earth. Cleveland to be exact. Hilarity ensues. Howard is a foul-mouthed, cigar-smoking, one-time rock star who is also quite skilled in the ancient art of 'Quack-Fu.' He takes up residence with Beverly Switzler, singer of an all-girl rock band, Cherry Bomb and together they try to figure out why Howard ended up there, and how to get him back. Along the way he run-ins with a bumbling lab assistant, an ill-fated scientist, street punks and duck hunters and an alien Dark Overlord who terrorizes the last reel of the film in wonderful stop motion animation. The film has taken a lot of flack since it's release 22 years ago in 1986, winning a series of 'Razzie Awards' and topping many 'Worst Films Of 1986' lists. It may come as a shock to us now, who live in a time when comic book properties are turned into films at the drop of a hat, but Howard The Duck was actually the first movie adapted from a Marvel Comics character to receive a wide release here in the States. It would be nearly 15 years before we would see another one of their properties adapted in the form of Blade and even then, it was no more than a second tier character at best. Some put the blame directly upon Howard The Duck citing its critical failure and it's somewhat dismal domestic gross. But things turned out alright. I mean, for good or bad, Marvel Comics is now producing movies en masse and comic book movies in general are getting better treatment artistically than they ever have previously. So it could be said that it is far past time to go ahead an revisit the film. And much to my surprise, I did not have to wait until March 10 for it was announced almost simultaneously that the good people at Hulu were feature the movies allowing me to stream the film in all of it's awesomely bad glory. The most striking thing about the film is the star power that adorns the film. Lea Thompson very adeptly plays Beverly, reminding me of more than a few of the musicians I know, male and female. Jeffery Jones appears as the possessed doctor Walter Jennings and you can tell he had a blast with the character's transformation from curious scientist to Dark Overlord from the Nexus of Sominus. His voice cackles gleefully, dripping with evil and grinning with a perverted leer as the parasite within him grows more powerful. The most shocking and humorous turn in the film however comes from Tim Robbins who plays dim-witted lab Phil Blumburtt. Robbins can pretty much take any role, no matter how absurd, and really disappear in it. Ever word that comes out of Blumburtt's mouth is pure gold, and he tags along quite confusedly, every bit as stupid as you'd expect. And I have to say, the story is pretty endearing if you can get past the whole vulgar talking duck aspect. But truly, there are some actually tender moment between Howard and Beverly that are well executed considering the source. Yes, I realize the film is 'bad' but I wouldn't expect anything less from it and one could almost say that the film itself is quite aware of its shortcomings, which makes it all the more cool. And really, can anyone really tell me that the musical sequence at the end is not totally badass? I don't think so. Admit it: Howard is one cool duck.