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Howard the Duck (1986)

Howard: A New Breed of Hero


Lea "I've got to get Back to the Future" Thompson is Beverly Switzler
Jeffrey "I'll get Ferris Bueller once and for all.." Jones is Dr. Walter Jenning
Tim "Shawshank Prison can't hold me..." Robbins is Phil Blumburtt
Ed Gale is Howard T. Duck
Chip Zien is Howard T. Duck (voice)
Tim Rose is Howard T. Duck
Steve Sleap is Howard T. Duck
Peter Baird is Howard T. Duck
Mary Wells is Howard T. Duck
Lisa Sturz is Howard T. Duck
Jordan Prentice is Howard T. Duck
Paul Guilfoyle is Lieutenant Welker

What IMDB says:

A sarcastic humanoid duck is pulled from his homeworld to Earth where he must stop an alien invader.


2 moons are in the sky? Howard gets to his apartment when an earthquake starts. Suddenly, Howard’s chair flies through his apartment building and into the sky.

You are entering a dimension of sight and sound and of ducks..
A narration about all the possible realities ensue. Howard crashes into an alley in Cleveland. A gang finds him. At a nearby rock club, Lea Thompson is singing in all her 1980s feathered hair glory.

Later, everyone is obviously freaked out by Howard who hides in a trash can. A couple of sleazy guys hit on Lea Thompson leaving the club. Howard decides to come to her rescue and learns he’s on the planet Earth. Lea takes him to her apartment. She’s kind of unnerved by all 3-foot tall talking ducks. Howard dropped out of med school and started as an ad agency.

The next day, Lea takes Howard to see Tim Robbins, scientist. He’s ecstatic about seeing Howard and now has proof of the theory of the evolution of ducks. Howard gets mad at Lea and just wants to be left alone.

Storming off, Howard goes to the employment agency. Later, he is sent to work as a towel boy, towel duck, at a bath house. Storming off, Howard learns about duck season.

Back at the club, more Lea Thompson’s 1980s feathered hair glory ensues. Howard goes back to the club. We learn the Lea’s manager has been ripping them off. Howard gets the manager to drop the contract. Backstage, the band meets Howard who apologizes to Lea. Tim Robbins arrives with his crazy theories. Howard gives the girls their money. Tim Robbins takes Howard’s tail feather for a test.

At Lea’s apartment, she suggests that Howard be their manger. Howard starts putting the moves on Lea when she’s ready for bed. In bed, Lea is apparently warm for some duck form. She was just kidding when Tim Robbins and Dr Jennings walk in. They explain what happened at Jennings’s laser telescope observatory. The laser hit Howard’s planet and brought him to Earth. Howard wants to reverse the polarity of the beam and send him back home. It has to be done tonight.

At the observatory, the alarms are sounding. An explosion ensues. The panicking scientists are running. The police arrive and examine Howard. Lea and Howard escape.

The police are to bring in Howard at all costs.

Lea and Howard find Dr Jennings who was caught in the explosion. They drive off and stop at a truck stop. Dr Jennings is in pain and is talking about something growing in him. He is starting to talk about the end of the world and is now a Dark Overlord of the Universe from a region of demons.

Ferris Bueller will rue the day he angered Edward Rooney...
The laser freed him and took over Jennings’s body. He will use the laser spectroscope to bring the rest of the Dark Overlords.

The men grab Howard. Jennings starts to power up because Howard has the key card for the laser spectroscope. He explodes plenty of things. Jennings traps Lea and Howard in the diner. Jennings takes Lea but Leaves Howard behind.

Jennings drives away. He needs Lea for a body for the Dark Overlord to grow inside. The raspy voiced Jennings needs energy and plugs his prehensile tongue into the cigarette lighter.

The cops are at the café. Howard spots Tim Robbins in a police car and lets him out. Explaining that Jennings is a monster, etc. They find an ultra-light to build nearby.

In the morning, Jennings heads to a nuclear power plant to feed.

Howard and Tim Robbins take off in the ultra-light as the cops are in pursuit.

Don't worry, you'll be in worse shape in Shawshank Prison...

Jennings is driving down the interstate and stopped at a police inspection pull-off. He starts to blow up a number of cars and arrives at the observatory.

Howard and Tim Robbins land at the observatory.

Lea is tied underneath the laser spectroscope. Tim Robbins searching for a weapon and finds the neutron disintegrator.

Say hello to my leettle friend!!!

Jennings’s fires up the laser spectroscope.

Tim Robbins mounts the neutron disintegrator on a go-cart.

Jennings is tossing around his energy beams. Howard drives the go-cart and fires the neutron disintegrator. Jennings is normal. The explosion freed the Dark Overlord from his body. They go to free Lea.

The scorpion-like giant Dark Overlord is pretty angry.

Grabbing Howard and restarts the laser spectroscope to free the other Dark Overlords. Jennings is able to free Howard who gets back to the go-cart.

Firing up the neutron disintegrator again, Howard shoots the Dark Overlord and finishes him off. The laser spectroscope is still on and the other Dark Overlords are about to arrive. Howard has to destroy the spectroscope and can’t return home. Howard fires up the neutron disintegrator on the laser spectroscope. Let the explosions ensue.

Lea and Tim Robbins find Howard.

Later, at a Cherry Bomb concert, Lea in all her 1980s feathered hair glory starts off with the “Howard the Duck” song. Tim Robbins is the manager. Howard winds up on the stage, playing a guitar.

I Wanna Rock...Rock...

What I say:

This week's suggested soundtrack will be Rick Dee's 1970sacular song Disco Duck

Hopefully my ten of readers or 3rd class ninjapprentices realize, that I try to do special reviews for certain occasions like maybe a review that doesn't complete waste your time. This is certainly one of them because if my calculations are right. This is my 300th review and while it may not involve attacking any number of Spartans...Got to say hopefully, this is a milestone you won't want to beat me with or would that be a millstone? I'd appreciate anyone if they have any suggestions to help me decrease the sucktackularity of my site, improve its ninjalisciousness, or recommend any moves (not that I make any promises of hunting them down)...For everyone who stumbled across my site by those keyword searches, I hope you weren't that disappointed. But onto my deluded ramblings about the greatest midget in a duck suit movie from the 1980s or dare I say of all time.

Some movies lose part of their charm years after you first watched them. I had been avoiding Howard the Duck for time because I remember how I loved the movie back in the 80s when it was shown on the movie channels all the time. Watching it for this review, it's gotten better. This has to be the first time I've watched it arguably as an adult or somewhat a facsimile of one.

Very few people acknowledge George Lucas's greatest success when Wal-Mart still sold VHS movies, the one that was on every display rack was Howard the Duck until the end of VHS. Many jokes have been made about George Lucas's failures: the Star Wars Holiday Special, Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones, Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith, and the greatest movie about a midget in a duck suit in bed with Lea Thompson.

Comic book-wise, it looked like Marvel was unstoppable. The 1970s saw Marvel trying to reach out into the movie and television world. Marvel had Incredible Hulk series, the Captain America and Spiderman movies, the Dr. Strange pilot, and some of their animated series like the Fantastic Four. However for every high there is a low. The 1970s also had an animated Dazzler movie which thankfully fell apart. Cher as the Witch Queen. KISS as her Dreadknights. Donna Summer and the Village People (guess Can't Stop the Music should have released the Village People into movies like the common cold into the general populace...) The early 1980s gave us the Amazing Spiderman cartoon. However, by the later 1980s, the Hulk would return in a couple of NBC movies later in the decade. The Punisher movie came out in the late 80s. I'm not sure about the rumors I heard about an unmade She-Hulk tv-movie pilot but a few photos of Brigiette Nielsen as her are out on the web if you can find them.

The greatest story of a fish out of a water on an another planet..OK, .Duck out of water with implied inter-species romance in a PG movie. I'm almost worried enough to get any keywords hits from that last sentence to remove it. How can a movie with 8 midgets in a duck suit trying to romance Lea Thompson while being chased by a Demonic Principal Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off not be a great movie? OK, if Tori Amos had gotten the part instead of Lea Thompson, that would have made the movie infinitely funnier. Just hum Professional Widow of Caught a Lite Sneeze when Tori-Beverly is captured by the Demonic Principal Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

I'd hate to analyze the pyschological impact of Lea Thompsons roles from the mid-1980s. Red Dawn had her as a teenage revolutionary battling communist invaders. Back to the Future had her playing half a dozen different roles including Michael J Fox's girlfriend, mother, and hot teen version of his mother who apparently hadn't read "Oedipus Rex." Then we get to today's review: Howard the Duck. Lea Thompson "Oh dressed so scantily" (borrowing a line from the great 1980's philosopher Huey Lewis) in bed with a midget in a duck suit. You may have I'm not including Casual Sex because the psychological impact of every movie with Andrew "Dice" Clay requires professional help (I've yet to recover from Brainsmasher: A Love Story). Lea Thompson from Red Dawn and Back to the Future looking like the teleported combination of Pat Benetar and Belinda Carlisle from the Go-Gos as a rock singer.

Before Tim Robbins became all dramatic with movies like the Shawshank Redemption, whatever artsy flicks he's done lately, or attempted at being political, he was Phil in this movie. At the very least, no one could take Tim Robbins seriously after seeing him as a janitor who becomes a 1980s girl band manager. Sure to think, he's embarrassed by the scene where he's talking in a quacking fashion.

Jeffrey Jones who used to be the typical sleazy hench weasel type except when he the head sleazy guy in comedies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Who's Harry Crumb? where he gets to rock Annie (Janine from Ghostbusters) Potts world. In the 1980s, Jeffrey Jones who gets possessed by the Dark Overlord of the Universe has just gotten creepier after his arrests (better known in the real world now for his arrest and as being a registered sex offender) which makes him chasing a midget in a duck suit even stranger. Here, he is pretty non-existent until he becomes a Dark Overlord of the Universe. Just trying to talk in a raspy whisper about destroying the world by Ferris Bueller's principal, how can anyone not find humor in that?

The special effects which by today's standards may not look that good but were still state of the art in the day. People rail against how the effects looked decades earlier without considering how much easier using computer effects is now. A monster suit normally is always better than any lame CG.

The original comic book version of Howard the Duck from the 1970s by Steve Gerber (who died early this year) was much more satirical. Howard wandered around and ran across strange situations and characters such as Dr. Bong (supervillain with a Bell for a head). Howard had pretty much disappeared entirely by the 1980s when the beginning of the funny animal comics in retrospect to the rise of comic book shops which got to be pretty popular for a while in the 1980s but died out in the grim and gritty 90s. Why Marvel Comics thought making a Howard the Duck movie in the mid 80s was a great idea is a mystery. Howard was quite popular through the 1970s. He was even a write-in candidate in the 1976 Presidential election. By the mid 1980s, he had pretty much vanished. The past few years has brought Howard out of complete banishment in the Marvel Comics universe.

It's been years and years since I the last time I had seen Howard the Duck. Had an idea to do a theme month and while a 1980s month is sort of on the backburner. Digging through the infamous VHS tape cabinents, I dug out Howard the Duck. Been quite a while since I ran across a movie that grabs you and screams "I'm from the 80s!!" People who consider themselves normal at best might acknowledge they knew the movie was made. However, since I'm not normal, I admit I actually enjoyed this movie. Midget in a duck suit, that's funny...The parts that weren't meant to be funny are. Couldn't help but laugh.

My biggest complaint about the movie is it's too long. It's 110 minutes. The police chasing after Howard in the ultralight was at least 15 minutes too long. If the chase had at least been exciting, it wouldn't seem that bad. Imagine a car driving the speed limit after an ultralight that will randomly lift up high enough to the top of a semi trailer and then go back down to wheeling along the road. Watch that car chase for at least 20 minutes, that's how the chase went... Very few movies I can think of have scenes that go one for so long without any payoff. Wow, a joke about a duck not knowing how to fly must fly an ultra-light...Comedy gold..

Normally, I keep from doing the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon on "who did this with whom on this set, etc.." However, I discovered that the director, William Huyck, was unknown to me until I stumbled across one of his earlier movies: Messiah of Evil. That is a movie I was more impressed seeing footage of Sammy Davis Jr as a gunfighter in a Western shown during a movie theater scene than anything else in the entire movie. Well, Mr. Huyck did work with George Lucas on American Graffitti and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a writer.


Quotable Dialogue

"In the beginning, there was Howard the Duck."
"Talk about a rotten day."
"No one laughs at a master of Quack Fu!"
"No more Mr Nice Duck!"
"Let the female creature go"
"On my planet, we don't say die. We say KILL!!!!"
"Book'em Ducko..."
"Death from the sky, duck hunters!! Vengeance is mine!!"
"Eat claw, duck!"

Morals of the Story

Anthrapomorphic ducks are considered to be children.
English is the universal language.
Ducks have flashbacks and post traumatic stress disorder.
Ice picks are great for ear piercing.
Cajun sushi is very popular.
Chili causes people to be surrounded by electrical energy auras.
Rednecks don't cotton to interspecies romance.
Fastening seatbelts start cars.

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