“Noone laughs at a master of Quack-Fu”.
Damn right Howard, and George Lucas’ most infamous movie is every bit as bizarre as you remember it. Within five minutes of it starting, we’ve had naked duck breasts, duck pornography, Club Mallard and the lead character being blasted off to another world. It’s all done in such a matter of fact way, you almost feel churlish for questioning it.Howard The Duck, of course, is the film that many speculated we’d never see on DVD, given the fact that the last time it saw a VHS release was in the US many moons ago. Lucas, billed as Executive Producer, but with his name firmly above the title, has seemed less keen to meddle with Howard The Duck as he has with his Star Wars films for some reason, and wide consensus suggests he wishes it’d quietly slip away. In the US, therefore, there’s still no sign of a release. But hail Metrodome in the UK, who has somehow acquired the rights and put the film out on DVD.
And credit too for whoever they drafted in to write the box copy. “Sense of humour” barely covers it. “The most eagerly awaited blockbuster of all time arrives for the first time on DVD”, screams the copy, with tongue rammed so firmly into the side of the face that cheek surgery is clearly a necessity. Further tasters? How about “incredible fantasy”, “from the writers of American Graffiti and Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom” and “legendary elaborately produced spoof of love, life and comic books”. “Never in the history of cinema has there been a hero quite like this” is the closest the text on the back comes to matching the content on the disc inside.
“Book him, Ducko”
So let’s do the plot. There’s Howard, transported onto Earth, where he encounters Lea Thompson’s down-on-her-luck singer. Howard sticks up for Lea, Lea strips down to her pants (not sure why, but hey, who cares?!), Tim Robbins comes in as the nerdy lab assistant and disgraced 80s icon Jeffrey Jones gradually gets possessed. Sci-fi hokum ensues, Thompson’s clothes come off again, and the actors spout out any old shit of a line before running off to get their cheques.
Tim Robbins, in particular, it has to be said doesn’t come out of this well at all. His wild-eyed enthusiast lab assistant gives little hint of the man who win Oscar nominations little more than a decade later, and I don’t remember his Oscar acceptance speech mentioning being out-acted by a duck. Jeffrey Jones hams it up and gets into the spirit of things much more easiler, while for Thompson (“turn me into a dark overlord! I’ll still spit in your wormy face!”), those Back to the Future sequels couldn’t come quick enough.“Prepare to eat beak!”
All considered, Howard The Duck – while clearly a disaster – isn’t a dull failure. You may believe that there’s adhesive on the floor given the amount of time your chin’ll spend there as the film throws up more crap that you’d convinced yourself you’d remembered incorrectly. But heck, in many contexts, they simply don’t make them like this anymore, and it’s a hoot to watch again. Certainly in the league of the supposed worst films of all time, it’s at least a laugh to watch. And credit the effects, that hold up really quite well.
It’s a pity that, trailer aside, the DVD is so barren, but the very fact that the film got this far is perhaps as good as it’ll ever get. It was hardly likely to qualify for a Criterion Collection disc, after all.
Whether the novelty value of the film alone qualifies for a £13 purchase in its own right is, of course, questionable. Our advice is to find a friend with a malfunction in the money/sense department, promise to bring the cheap alcopops if they provide the DVD, and watch it round their house.
You won’t feel half as dirty. And you might even enjoy yourself….