What the Duck?: Howard the Duck (1986)


The following is a guest post from Erin Reardon. 

After many years accidentally ruining other people’s film experiences while working as an absent-minded, inept projectionist, Erin Reardon decided it was time to get practical and gain a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Adelaide with an English major, followed by Honours in History – neither of which were in any way practical. In his spare time, he likes to watch hilariously terrible, yet earnest attempts at film-making – less intentionally bad (the Sharknado films), more accidentally bad (No Retreat, No Surrender 3).


The year was 1987. The video store was… Well, I can’t exactly remember the video store, but for the sake of painting a picture, it was most likely Movieland or Video 10,000 (This is before the Blockbuster behemoth swallowed all in its wake, and Blockbuster stores themselves became archaeological sites representing a bygone era).

It’s worth noting that I would have been 8-years-old on this fateful trip to the video store. My brother would have been 9 or 10. The film in question is not, in any sense of the word, a “good” film. In fact, it is infamous for being one of the most disjointed, confused and downright bizarre stories committed to celluloid.

My brother and I subscribed to the “judging a movie by its VHS cover.” Film critics weren’t on our radar and Rotten Tomatoes didn’t exist, so when we stumbled across a VHS cover of an anthropomorphised duck sitting in a lounge chair, smoking a cigar and reading Rolling Stone magazine, we knew what we had to do. We had to borrow that film, NEVER return it and watch it daily for the next month.

The film in question is, of course, Howard the Duck (1986). The film was based on one of the lesser- known and more comedic Marvel comic books of the same name. The film was originally intended to be an animated film, but a certain Mr. George Lucas got his hands on the film as a producer and what follows is possibly one of the weirdest films of the 1980s to get a cinema release.

In hindsight, we can see clearly that Howard the Duck continued the downward spiral that began three years earlier with Return of the Jedi and turned the crazy up to 11. Within minutes of Howard the Duck’s opening, we are treated to some duck boobs – that’s right, duck boobs. I don’t plan to go into detail regarding the plot of this film because if you haven’t seen it you probably won’t believe me anyway, but the duck boobs perfectly represent just how insane this film is.

Howard the Duck doesn’t know whether it wants to go for an adult-oriented audience in the vein of Fritz the Cat (the 1972 film based on Robert Crumb’s comic), or whether it wants to market toys to children. It would have almost certainly been a “better” film had it gone for the former. To two pre-teen boys innocent and naïve enough not to know what constituted a “good” film, however, Howard the Duck ticked boxes we didn’t realise we even wanted ticked before seeing the film – namely, a blossoming romance between a wise-cracking duck from outer space and the female singer of a rock band called Cherry Bomb (a band that Howard goes on to manage)

Oh, and duck boobs. Mostly duck boobs.

You can have your Dark Knights and Iron Men, but when it comes to comic book film adaptations, you can go no crazier, no weirder, and – to two young boys – no better, than Howard the Duck.




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