In the pantheon of mega-derided '80s films, few films can touch the inescapable reek of Howard the Duck. I know plenty of folks who dig Ishtar, Cobra, and Leonard Part 6 -- but remarkably few movie geeks have stood up and spoken out for Willard Huyck's Howard the Duck, which just recently arrived as a Special Edition DVD from Universal.
I'll spare you the plot machinations -- because frankly a movie this stupid deserves to be seen BY YOU at least once -- but I've always been amazed at the disparity between the source material and the cinematic adaptation. I've also been sickened by the girl on duck seduction scene, assaulted by the horrific Thomas Dolby music, and beaten into drooling submission by the flick's endlessly wretched puns.
But as a piece of mid-'80s big-budget mega-floppage? I find Howard the Duck more fascinating -- and more worthy of mockery -- than Hudson Hawk, Over the Top, and Toys put together. So imagine my ironic jubilation when I saw a new Howard the Duck DVD sitting on the video shelves, as if it were actually a real-live movie that people would want to own...
First up is the flick itself, which is pretty much the $40 million dollar poop-nugget you'd expect from the spouses that brought you Best Defense, Radioland Murders, and the brain-savaging screenplay from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. (Yeah, they also wrote American Graffiti, too. Well done. Overrated flick.) Sit back and watch 111 minutes of wasted effort cascade across your cerebral cortex. Beers and bongs are not essential, but certainly recoemmended.
So after that silly spectacle has begun fading from your eye sockets, get ready for a 26-minute retrospective featurette in which all of the interviewees try desperately to keep a straight face. Kudos to Lea Thompson and Jeffrey Jones for contributing to the anecdotes, and doing it sunnily, as if they were talking about Back to the Future or Ferris Bueller's Day Off (respectively). Actor/stuntman Ed Gale also has some very amusing memories from the production. For their part, writer / producer / director unit Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz are more than happy to discuss the casting, the shoot, the pressures, and the numerous FX headaches -- without ever really addressing the fact that ... they had no clear idea what they were doing with this movie. (In their defense, the couple is both honest about the flick and still loyal to their creation. Gotta respect that.)
For those who are a bit more interested in the aftermath than in the conception, we switch to a 13-minute piece called "Releasing the Duck," and this is where you'll find all the defensive moments, the half-hearted excuses, and the basic admissions that, yeah, the flick's just not very good. (Katz in particular ... still doesn't get it. She blames the FX and wonders if the film was simply "ahead of its time." Ahem. Like the Rollerball remake was ahead of its time.) Curiously missing from the retrospective pieces is Mr. Tim Robbins, which is both surprising (in that Howard the Duck was his first big break into Hollywood) and not even remotely surprising (in that he probably hates the movie as much as most people do, and doesn't want to spend 21 minutes saying how much he hates it). Plus he's probably busy.
Also included are four archival promos (the stunts, the FX, the music, and a general one) and pair of kitschily fascinating teaser trailers. Unfortunately there is no audio commentary on the disc, which really seems like a missed opportunity, given that I would have recorded one for FREE, Universal! Oh man, that would have been fun.
And y'know what? Even though I fully contend that Howard the Duck is a truly BAD movie, it's one I'll probably keep as part of my collection. For historical perspective, I suppose. Right next to Showgirls, Battlefield Earth, and Catwoman.