‘Howard the Duck’ – Still a turkey

‘Howard the Duck’ – Still a turkey

Even mediocre movies offer DVD extras extolling how “powerful” the film turned out to be and tales of the “amazing” on-set chemistry.

But what’s a studio to do when it releases “Howard the Duck” on DVD, the 1986 film which out Ishtarred “Ishtar” and made “Heaven’s Gate” look like a mild flop?

The extras included on “Duck,” enjoying its first stateside DVD release March 10, confront the problem head on. And, of course, crank up the spin machine in the process.

First, let’s consider the film in question. Yes, it’s as awful as advertised, a junk pile of stale duck puns and tone deaf appeals to young viewers.

The kiddies might have embraced “Howard” if not for a plethora of gags – duck condoms and a makeout scene between co-star Lea Thompson and Howard himself among them – that took the pre-teen option off the table.

The film’s creators, filmmakers Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, stubbornly cling to their notion that “Howard” was misunderstood while acknowledging the film’s reception was less than celebratory. They insist the film still has a fan base today, as does the man who gave life to Howard, Ed Gale.

Thompson shares the most personal revelations, recalling how she broke down on the set of her next film following “Duck’s” crash, a sort of post traumatic duck disorder.

As it stands, “Howard the Duck” is a fine example of ’80s cinematic excess, featuring actors who defined the era (Thompson, Jeffrey Jones), effects on the cusp of the forthcoming FX revolution and a producer (George Lucas) who used up most of his Force creating the “Star Wars” trilogy.

Lucas isn’t present in the new bonus features, but Katz relates how the “Star Wars” visionary insisted that time would ultimately vindicate “Duck.”

Maybe that will prove true in another 23 years, but for now “Howard the Duck” lays an egg all over again.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex RulesNo Gravatar March 4, 2009 at 10:04 am

Actually the first Marvel Comics movie. That is true. Poor Steve Gerber (RIP) created him and he didn’t think it was close to his creation. The next Marvel Movie was Blade starring Wesley Snipes in 98. Quite an improvement. All those years I kept going ‘where’s all the Marvel films?’

Atleast Howard had a cool monster at the end, I have to give ‘em that one.

Ken BendorNo Gravatar March 4, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Is this where it all started to go wrong for George Lucas? I’d say yes!

JimmyCNo Gravatar March 4, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Ken, you’re giving Lucas too much credit. I’d say it started to go wrong for him around the time he was making Return of the Jedi, when he decided that the best way to end his epic series was with a bunch of furry midgets dancing around and singing “yub yub!”

RonnNo Gravatar March 4, 2009 at 4:49 pm

the sad thing about this film is that i actually thought it was a great movie when it came out but i was 9 at the time so i guess i didn’t know what made a good movie. i haven’t seen the movie for years and i always wondered when it was going to be released on dvd. i am tempted to watch it again but that could ruin my perception of what once was a truly great film.

bobNo Gravatar March 5, 2009 at 2:19 am

This really is a guilty pleasure for me. A complete train wreck sans train. Just watching Tim Robbins yucking around is almost worth the cost. And John Barry’s score…? Who knew?!? And who knew that Oakland, California, could look like Cleveland, Ohio, or that the Sacramento River Delta was exactly like rural Ohio, or that the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant could stand in for a nuclear power plant anywhere, any time? Rumor always had it that this was Huyck and Katz reward for writing Temple of Doom. I’d say it was their revenge.

Then again, I also believe that there is a great Howard the Duck movie somewhere among those awesome comic books, especially in the telling of the Island of Doctor Bong.

cftotoNo Gravatar March 5, 2009 at 5:13 am

bob … we totally disagree on the merits of this movie, but I dig that you embrace it, warts and all. We all have a few guilty pleasures – films we could watch over and again but can’t for the life of us defend on any critical level!

DagnabbittNo Gravatar March 5, 2009 at 9:07 pm

It IS a bad film – but obviously, America is diverse enough to find a fan base for nearly anything.
I look at it as Lucas’s “1941″ – everyone should have one turkey on the resume to maintain humility.

~ Dagnabbitt

bobNo Gravatar March 6, 2009 at 3:46 am

Dagnabbit, minor correction: “Howard the Duck” is Lucas’s “1941.” “1941,” on the other hand, belongs to Spielberg, his follow-up to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

HowardNo Gravatar January 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Bob, your correction is unwarranted. 4 years after the fact I feel I have to say this. Dagnabbitt was using “1941″ as code for a big budget turkey by a producer who’s normally very successful (particularly at the box office). It’s like calling a big disastrous defeat somebody’s “Waterloo.” We know Spielberg and Napoleon are involved in these, that’s why the failures are so notorious.

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