The Curator of Schlock #86 by Jeff Shuster
Okay. I guess I have to ramble on a bit about Howard the Duck. I always think of Blade as the first film adaptation of a Marvel comic, but as the film’s narrator at the start of the movie proclaims, “In the beginning there was Howard the Duck!” The narrator skips out of the movie right after that proclamation, abandoning us to what is one of the worst films of all time.
I was a lucky kid in some respects. I had access to cable in the 1980s and not just basic, but Showtime and The Disney Channel, too. If you want to hear my recollections on Disney, listen to The Drunken Odyssey podcast Episode 102. As for Showtime, I’d waste many a Saturday afternoon watching all kinds of 80s goodness. There’d be greatest hits like Indiana Jones movies, Star Trek movies, Back to the Future movies, John Hughes comedies, and ultraviolent Schwarzenegger flicks. But I spent as much time watching the flops as I did the hits.
Not all flops are bad. I caught Nate and Hayes, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Wind and the Lion on Showtime. All flopped at the box office, but they got a second life on cable and home video and gained a fresh audience from kids like me. But then there were other flops like The Garbage Kids Movie, Mac and Me, and Howard the Duck, ones that I would watch because I had nothing better to do.
What was I supposed to do? Go outside and play? Read a book?
Howard the Duck isn’t all bad. The first half is almost bearable, a zany 80s comedy about a duck from a planet of evolved ducks that’s almost exactly like Earth except they read Playbill instead of Playboy and go to see movies like Breeders of the Lost Stork. He gets transported through some mega-beam to our planet where he runs into some Death Wish punks and is taken in by a punk rocker with a heart of gold named Beverly (Lea Thompson). Oh who cares? I’m not summarizing anymore.
Speaking of letters, this movie was rated PG. There’s the famous scene where Howard is working at a hot tub place that borders on soft porn and another scene with Beverly that borders on bestiality. Now my interpretation of the scene is that nothing happened, but Sean Ironman remembers it differently. I don’t know if Beverly is supposed to be a love interest for Howard or not. The movie gives us little closure as far as that’s concerned. Blame the Reagan era.
The movie shifts gears when some scientists use the mega beam again and end up summoning the “Dark Overlords of the Universe” that obviously ends up possessing one of the scientists. I think the Dark Overlords wants to conquer the world, or destroy the world. A scene at a Cajun Sushi diner is particularly painful. I remember Joe Bob Briggs showing this movie on TNT’s Monster Vision. He said that at this point in the movie, he didn’t care about the Dark Overlords. He wanted to know what the man in the duck suit looked like.
The duck suit is fantastic. Howard’s face is very expressive, the eyes blink and regular intervals, he looks like living cartoon duck! Industrial Light & Magic provided the effects. The next time I would see Howard the Duck in another movie would be his cameo in the post credit sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy. As I left the theater, I heard a father telling his kid, “If you want to watch a terrible movie, watch Howard the Duck.”
5 Things I Learned from Howard the Duck
1. Lucasfilm can’t save a bad movie.
2. Lea Thompson can’t save a bad movie.
3. It’s a good thing Tim Robbins decided to take that part in Top Gun.
4. The Howard the Duck comic book has to be better than the movie because it can’t be any worse.
5. I will never try Cajun Sushi.