Monday, June 6, 2011

Howard the Duck (Willard Huyck, 1986)

Tucked away amidst a vast field of downy feathers, the reproductive organs of your average cigar-chomping duck from the far reaches of the cosmos are just waiting to be provoked by the right kind of visual stimuli. And to think, I was originally gonna start this paragraph off with a frightfully pedantic bit on how to avoid using duck-related wordplay when talking about Howard the Duck, a wonderfully plumose film that will soothe your inner mallard. If you were a heterosexual drake from outer space (a "drake," by the way, is what people who abuse thesauruses call a male duck), what kind of female Earth creature would you want to rescue from the unguiculated clutches of the dark overlord of the universe? You're absolutely right, it couldn't be just any old female Earth creature. Certainly not V.I.C.I. (Voice Input Child Identicant) from Small Wonder, or its Indian counterpart, Karishma Ka Karishma, that would be creepy as all get out. No, I think most people will agree that they would have to be pretty darned special to justify the amount grief the anthropomorphic space duck in this cinematic lark has to endure on a daily basis. What I would like all the male's out there to do is stop thinking about Sandra Bernhard in a zebra-print negligée for five seconds and try to imagine what actress Lea Thompson would look like in a pair of pink tights. Oh, and don't worry, that slight tingle you just felt in the lumpy area near your groin after I finished writing the word "tights" is completely natural (feel free to adjust yourself if need be). Okay, now try to imagine Lea, while still thinking about her shapely legs crammed into a pair of pink tights, with crimped hair. Don't be alarmed, the moist sensation you're currently experiencing is not being caused by urine, no, you just ejaculated sperm, my friend, and it was achieved without any physical manipulation on my part.

Check this out, by simply telling you to picture Lea Thompson (it actually didn't matter what her legs were sheathed in or how wavy her hair was), I was able to extract a robust dollop of your precious jizz. Pretty radical, huh? Now what do you think would happen to the cock of a well-travelled duck if the first human female they came in contact with looked like Lea Thompson circa 1986? You know exactly what would happen, the feather displacement alone would be devastating.

In no way, shape, or form does it promote bestialty (Howard's a duck from another planet, and not a local duck), Howard the Duck is about love and acceptance, not crimped hair drenched in space spunk. Of course, I've made it seem that way–you know, with all my talk of duck erections and pink tights. But then again, can you blame me? Not to blow on a metaphorical horn that represents my greatness, but my ability to induce guys into discharging their semen is legendary.

Bursting out of the gate with more duck puns than any other film in history, Howard the Duck, based on the comic book created by writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik, starts off on a planet located in an unknown region of space. Sure, it looks like Earth, but upon further inspection, it's obvious that the planet is populated entirely by talking ducks. Plopping down in his chair after long day at work, Howard T. Duck (Ed Gale) can be seen flipping through channel after channel of duck-related programming on his television (my favourite was an ad for a product that promised to "eliminate feather fungus even in the most active of crotches"), when suddenly, well, first he checks out the centrefold ("hello, my airbrushed beauty") in the latest issue of Playduck magazine, but then suddenly, he's sucked out of his apartment and sent hurdling through space.

Floating through space, as the sound of Thomas Dolby's superb score twinkles on the soundtrack, Howard eventually crash lands in a magical place called Cleveland. Containing more punk and new wave cred in its first five minutes than most movies that are purportedly about punk and new wave, the wayward duck seems strangely at home in this kooky universe. However, despite it being replete with tough chicks who wear lingerie as outerwear, lesbian bikers (Satan's Sluts), and, not to mention, John Fleck in a leather jacket, Howard finds Cleveland a tad overwhelming (he's tossed around like a chew toy by a group of drunk punks).

Deciding to lay low in a trash can, Howard hears a bit of a kerfuffle going on outside (it sounds like two punks are picking on someone). Poking his head out to see what all the commotion is about, Howard lays eyes on Beverly Switzler (Lea Thompson) for the very first time (call me somewhat deluded, but the duck seemed to savour every saw-toothed inch of her jagged mane). Anyway, after he's done savouring her hair, Howard gives the punks a taste of what he likes to call "quack-fu" (okay, I'll admit, even I groaned at that one), which, to no one's surprise, causes Beverly's attackers to beat a hasty retreat.

Asking what Beverly what planet he is on (she thinks it's called "Earth"), it's right then and there that Howard finds out that he is in fact in Cleveland (he puts an emphasis on the space between "cleve" and "land" whenever he pronounces the city's name). Feeling sorry for the displaced water fowl, Beverly invites Howard to stay at her place. While doing her best impression of Soledad Miranda from Eugénie de Sade (she hugs her own legs while sitting on her window sill), Beverly watches her new feathered friend fall asleep. Which, of course, gives her the opportunity to poke through Howard's wallet without him knowing (paper money that was issued in the United States of Anatidae, a duck prophylactic, and a Bloomingducks credit card).

As is the case with most pop singers with crispy bangs–did I mention that Beverly fronts a new wave band (think Jem and the Holograms meets the Bangles) called Cherry Bomb? No? Well, she does, and her rendition of "Hunger City" rocks–Beverly knows a research scientist who works at the city's museum. The plan is to ask a twitchy fella named Phil Blumburtt (Tim Robbins) to help them figure how Howard ended up in Cleveland. Unfortunately, it turns out Phil is merely a lab assistant, which, for some reason, causes Howard and Beverly to get into an argument adjacent to a water fountain (the pinkness of Lea's pink tights really shine through during this scene).

Stomping off in a huff, Beverly leaves Howard to fend for himself on the cruel streets of Cleveland. Realizing that Earth ain't exactly the most duck-friendly planet in the galaxy, Howard quits his job at a massage parlour/spa and winds up back where he started, at one of Cherry Bomb's gigs. Employing his quack-fu on the corrupt management that oversee the financial well-being of Beverly's band (they were pocking their earnings all for themselves - after all... it's a competitive world), Howard apologizes for being such an ungrateful duck and takes over as their manager.

Meanwhile, back at Beverly's apartment, the sleazoids in the audience need to prepare themselves, because the infamous "pink panties/bed crawl" scene is about to commence. While the angle writer-director Willard Huyack ends up going with could have been more perverse, the end result (no pun intended) is still a terrific example of unforeseen titillation. Tormenting Howard with the minute smallness of her unwrinkled pink panties, Beverly causes the feathers on top of his head to become erect. Seeing this as a sign that Howard is ready to engage in a raucous session of interspecies loving-making, Beverly thrusts her taut, soon-to-be quivering body in the general direction of the demure space duck.

If you haven't finished masturbating by the time the pink panties/bed crawl scene comes along, I'm afraid you're... actually, I don't know whether to congratulate or ridicule you (the former for managing to thwart your orgasm this long, the latter because, well, duh, you're pleasuring yourself to Howard the Duck). Seriously, though, you better hurry up because the film quickly morphs into an action-packed thrill ride once Jeffrey Jones shows up as Dr. Jenning, a scientist at Dynatechnics who gives Howard the skinny on how he arrived in Cleveland. An exhaustive chase scene involving an ultralight aircraft (a sequence where a handcuffed Tim Robbins hams up a storm) and a chaotic laser cannon duel between Howard and a monstrous crab-like alien (a.k.a. the dark overlord of the universe) are the film's primary focus once Beverly covers her pink panties with a bed sheet.

I did, however, enjoy the post-pink panties/bed crawl scene at Joe Roma's, Cleveland's best Cajun sushi house. What I liked about this part of the movie, besides the fact that Howard tries to look up Beverly's skirt, the sinister nature of Jeffrey Jones's demon voice (the way he says, "give me the code key," was so '80s - code keys were all the rage during the Reagan Administration), and the phrase "hostility is like a psychic boomerang" is employed, was that all the waitstaff wore hachimakis. I don't know, there's something oddly appealing/off-putting about white people who embrace Japanese culture, especially cute white people like, Jorli McLain, who plays a waitress named Crystal (she also utters the psychic boomerang line).

Just for the record, the extremely raffish-looking shirt Lea Thompson wears during the diner section of the movie is definitely something I want to add to my nonexistent collection of movie wardrobe oddities.

Speaking of wardrobe oddities, the film's costume designer, Joe I. Tompkins, was definitely working at the top of his stylistic game in Howard the Duck. Take, for example, the character of Beverly Switzler, her outfits were off the charts in terms of creativity and playfulness. The seemingly erratic combination of fingerless opera gloves, black nylons, pink polka dot scarfs, brown coats, red high heel boots paired with purple socks, pink tights, tricked-out letterman jackets (the Keith Haring-esque sleeves were to die for), short tartan skirts with modest slits in the front, and jean jackets covered in metallic holes all screamed thrift store chic. Sure, from a slob's perspective, it appears that her many looks were simply thrown together in a haphazard manner. But if you look closely, and I mean really closely, you'll start to see a weird brand symmetry transuding from her mingle-mangle-inspired ensembles.

While the action scenes do drag on a bit during the film's final third, we do get to see Lea Thompson tied up twice. Yeah, that's right bondage fans, the leggy actress is bound in the back of a truck (the more she struggles, the tighter the ropes seem to dig into her flesh) and on a metal lab table (one equipped with built-in straps to prevent damsels from causing their captors any unnecessary distress).

The Paris Hilton of intergalactic duck movies, Howard the Duck is a prime example of decentralized decision making run amok. The negative ripple that washed over this movie upon its initial release was insurmountable. Yet none of its many detractors seem to bother mentioning Lea Thompson's legs, or her crimped hair, or even her penchant for fingerless gloves whilst stabbing it to death with their critical knives. Which is something that always struck me as rather odd. Could it be that their hatred of the upright duck has clouded their ability to watch filmed entertainment in a rationale manner? Part of me can see how the film might test the spiritual resolve of the fowl averse sitting in the audience, but everyone else should be busy basking in the new wave glow that radiated off Lea Thompson as she fell head over heels with a duck named Howard. Cringe if you must, especially when the duck is spouting lines like, "no more Mr. Nice Duck, but don't belittle a film that is, at its core, a love story for the ages.



  1. Hilarious, spot-on review Yum-Yum. I first discovered how to use the "slow" button on my VCR thanks to the "crawl" scene you mention.

    I love all your reviews. Keep up the excellent work.

  2. Thanks, SweetB. :)

    The crawl scene in HTD is a perverted work of art.

  3. They should have titled this DUCK PUN: THE MOVIE.

    Tagline: Go Duck Yourself.

    Lea and Cherry Bomb are the main reasons to watch this. Hotness!

    Lea's character may be the crimpiest performance in movie history. I'm surprised her head didn't catch fire at some point.

    I saw this in the theater, and was anxious to see it. Laugh at me if you must.

    I also played the C64 video game as a kid, and the repeating theme song burned into my brain. On the last level, you were Howard, and crossing a bridge inside a volcano and blasted stuff with a rocket launcher. I don't remember that scene from the movie, but maybe I wasn't paying attention.

  4. Even though I was happy with the amount of screen time Lea Thompson and her crimpy hairdo receive in Duck Pun: The Movie, I thought the other members of Cherry Bomb got shafted.

    Funny you should mention her catching on fire, 'cause, according to the DVD, the crimping process was murder on Lea's hair.

    Duck Pun: The Video Game?!? Damn, girl, your childhood was off the kooky chain.

  5. If Lea had caught fire and died, she would've been the victim of crimpicide. It's a dangerous world we live in.

    If they ever do a sequel, I'd like it to star the entire band. They could call it DUCK PUN 2: PUN HARDER, suckering in the Howard fans to what is really a girl group movie.

    I gotta guess that the name "Cherry Bomb" is a tribute to The Runaways, one of my favorite rock bands.

    Duckie vs. Howard the Duck steel cage match...who ya got? I'm going Duckie. He's not exactly tough, but he's bigger, and he'll be wearing some sort of pin or bolo tie he could use as a weapon.

    My brother is the proud owner of an original HOWARD teaser one sheet. The tagline on it says "more adventure than humanly possible", implying that ducks have more fun. I initially called horsefeathers on that, but then I realized I would kill to hang out with new wavy Lea Thompson.

    Boy, I'm out of control with the Howard the Duck comments. I'll duck off now.

    P.S. Feel free to make fun of my obsession with duck puns. Some may not be able to handle that sort of thing but, for me, it's all water off a duck's back.

  6. Crimpicide: Coif on the Street.

    If they ever do a sequel, the duck will no doubt be a computer generated duck.

    They could also call it, Quack Quip 2: The Quickening.

    Is Howard allowed to bring the giant laser cannon he used to defeat The Dark Overlord of the Universe into the cage with him? If so, then my money's on "the duck."

    The Belgian one sheet is my favourite Howard the Duck poster, as it features Lea and Tim standing in their third act electrocuted poses.

    The director of Howard the Duck is Willard Huyck, which, when looked at from a cockeyed perspective, looks like "Mallard Duck."

  7. "Sandra Bernhard a zebra-print negligée"

    fuck yeah.

    I fell wildly in love with her when she hosted "Reel Wild Cinema." I loved that show so much. One time she wore a lime green pleather mini-skirted body suit. Then a jungle animal print clingy, short skirted number with go-go boots. With those long legs and red hair, and wild eyes, jesus fucking christ on a crutch. Definitely an important part of my teenage years.


    I should finally see "Howard the Duck." It sounds fun.

  8. Damn, it looks I need to slide an "in" after "Sanadra Berhard."

    Mmmm, Sandra Berhard in a lime green pleather mini-skirted body suit. Tight!

  9. I happen to love this movie. It got me into the comics. Even Lea Thompson herself tweeted that she's proud that I'm a true fan. I still am.

  10. Speaking of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, I'm surprised you haven't reviewed Messiah of Evil. Maybe it doesn't precisely fit the genre here, but I think you'd love it, if you don't already.

    1. Thanks I just added it to my watch-list.

    2. Okay, you either haven't watched it, or you hated it.

    3. Not yet. :)

      I mean, I haven't watched it yet.

    4. Messiah of Evil rules. Review coming soon.

    5. Awesome. I had a feeling you'd like it.

  11. Oh, sorry it took me so long to get around to watching it. :)

  12. Did you see his cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2?

    1. Yeah, yeah, I distinctly remember seeing him at the end of the first one. And I distinctly remember it being the best part of the movie. ;)