Monday, May 22, 2017

Now That You’ve Seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Let’s Watch Howard the Duck



Howard the Duck (1986) secured its place in American Cinema as producer George Lucas’ least successful film and most notorious box office bomb.  At it’s time it was a considered a chaotic mess about a cult comic book talking duck from an alternate universe that confused viewers and failed to find an audience, even as a cult film.  But in retrospect Howard is the eighty-est of 80’s movies with music by Thomas Dolby and an anarchic goofiness reminiscent of early Tim Burton (or contemporary Tim Burton, depending on your time traveling perspective) and Hollywood New Wavers that would easily be at home at the Tech Noir.
Howard is zapped from Duckworld, where he lives in a duck city, reads Playduck and has a poster for Breeders of the Lost Stork on the wall of his apartment.  He lands across the galaxy in Cleveland and saves Lea Thompson as Beverly, the lead singer of the New Wave band Cherry Bomb from a couple punk rock thugs, because he’s a master of the ancient art of quack-fu.  But hang on, then it get’s a little absurd.  The Dark Overlord of the Universe has also been beamed to Earth and has taken over Jeffrey Jones as Dr. Jenning and then, you know, duck puns and hijinks ensue.
The duck effects are Chucky-level animatronics technology, but mostly achieved by a guy in a duck suit.  Equal parts Buckaroo Banzai (1984) and Pee Wee Herman with a dash of Masters of the Universe (1987), Howard the Duck when viewed from a contemporary perspective comes across as a nostalgic alternate universe that would easily be at home in our Guardians of the Galaxy (ie, Marvel/Disney) saturated world.
With music by 80’s icon Thomas Dolby, and the first and to my knowledge only, human/duck love scene (very chaste and sedate, even for the 80’s).  Watch out for a  very young Tim Robbins as Phil Blumburtt, another scientist, and a cameo by Thomas Dolby, as a bartender.










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