After the original Star Wars trilogy wrapped up in the early 80s Hollywood handed George Lucas a blank check. He decided to cash that check in by making a movie about a crass cigar smoking duck who got sucked through an interdimensional portal and dumped in Cleveland. Somehow Lucas and director Willard Hyuck managed to take that can't-miss premise and turned into one of the worst movies ever made. What follows is my attempt to capture every insane and awful detail about 1986's Howard The Duck in real time. Well, actually, what follows is part one of my attempt to catalog this movie's failures - there's so much wrong with this movie that I couldn't keep this to one post. Look for part two soon.
00:00:11 – I know that everyone thinks that this movie is an infamous disaster but so far the credits have been in focus and readable so it's not off to that bad of a start
00:01:45 – Howard arrives at his apartment and checks his mail. He has gotten a postcard hat was addressed to “Howard T. Duck”, which means that “the duck” is not an identifier that his friends gave him to keep him separate from all the other Howards they know, it's his actual name. You know, I'm not particularly attached to my last name, but it's a way better name than “The Human.”
00:02:10 – I don't have the energy to mock the posters on Howard's walls, all of which are lame bird-related puns. However I can't ignore the fact that Howard's room is decorated with a bunch of photos of him from different periods in his life... Except the costume couldn't be shrunk any smaller so he is the exact same height and weight in all of them, even the ones that are supposed to be of him when he was a baby. I can't believe that we're still in the opening credits and I've already noticed so many little details that make no goddamn sense.
00:002:14 – Howard opens his fridge and gets himself a beer... While he's listening to a message on his answering machine where a lady describes a sex dream she had about him... He finally turns to face the camera at which point we discover that he is smoking a big cigar... And he sits down in front of the TV where they are playing a commercial for a product that's meant to cure jock itch even for “the most active crotches.” This movie is rated PG. Congratulations the 80s – you were officially out of your goddamnned mind.
00:03:58 – Howard is now opening “Playduck” and looking at the centerfold (who is wearing a swimsuit even though she is ostensibly in a porno mag.) This is such a perverse and unnecessary detail that I almost want to defend it out of sheer contrarianness, but I don't have time to get into it because...
00:4:48 – I need to talk about how some unseen force is pulling Howard through the walls of his apartment building, and as he flies through his neighbor's houses we get a glimpse of their private lives. One of his neighbors is a duck lady taking a bath. But she's no ordinary duck lady. No, she's a duck lady with NIPPLES. Actually, on second thought, I'd rather NOT talk about that.
00:04:55 – Howard is now flying down a hallway, and he just passed elevator where a construction duck is making out with what might be a hooker duck? I can't tell if she's supposed to be dressed classily or provocatively. Either way, the blue was tacky and the neckline was scandalously low.
00:05:00 – Howard is now being pulled past a bar with a visible Budweiser logo. I wonder if they were happy with that bit of product placement? Nothing sells your product like being associated with duck hookers.
00:05:46 – Howard is now being sucked into outer space. (I saw Gravity, so I'm well aware of how instantly fatal outer space is. This is about to be a short movie.) Out of nowhere a narrator starts telling us about “The Cosmos”. What? This is a crass movie about a talking duck, it isn't allowed to talk pretentious science-y talk. Go fuck yourself fake Carl Sagan.
00:06:50 – This unseen force has now deposited Howard on Earth. The instant he lands some punks in leather jackets see him and are like “oh, yeah, this creepy talking feathered thing is something that I should touch with my hands” and they pick him up. They must be high on glue; I wouldn't touch Howard for a million goddamned dollars. (Would they be so handsy if they knew that he was just sitting at home watching jock itch commercials and thinking about jerking off?)
00:07:15 – The punks are now carrying Howard into a club. First glimpse of Leah Thompson - she's playing in a rock band behind a chain link fence. We only see her for a second, but it is already obvious that she has massive 80's helmet hair. I don't remember much about this movie, but I do remember thinking that she was super cute, so this development makes me want to raise my official despair meter from “yellow” to “orange.”
00:08:25 – The bouncer throws Howard out of the club and into an alley. Howard stands up, sees that he's next to a couple that are making out, and then... he cops a feel on the lady's upper thigh. I am not exaggerating when I say that there are sexual overtones in this film's first ten minutes than there are in the entire first act of 50 Shades of Grey. And somehow this movie was rated PG when it came out! No wonder my generation grew up and made gay marriage legal - we were raised on a steady diet of filth and it has turned all of us into degenerates and perverts and people who hella want to get married in the eyes of the law.
00:08:42 – Back to Leah Thompson. Now that I've gotten a closer look at her hair I think someone must have told the stylist “I'm thinking she needs a lion mane, but like, a lion mane with a perm.”
00:09:00 – Howard is now being chased by a motorcycle gang. He hides from them in an empty oil barrel. We haven't been told where in America this story is set yet, but judging from how many empty oil drums there are underneath this concrete overpass I'd guess Hobotown USA?
00:10:15 – Leah Thompson is walking home from her show all by herself. (Her bandmates ditched her in Hobotown? That is against the Hobos' code!) She is immediately accosted by a different group of punks who want to rape her over one of the empty oil drums... And of course it happens to be the oil drum that Howard is hiding in. You gotta give this movie this much: it's definitely one of a kind, since I can't think of a single other movie that had a meet cute that involved rapists, ducks and empty oil drums.
00:10:45 – Howard jumps out of the oil can and starts to do pretend Kung Fu moves in an attempt to scare the rapists. Every single time I see someone do shitty kung fu I think of that line in Biggie's song Things Done Changed where he raps “stupid mother fuckers want to try to use Kung Fu / instead of a Mac-10 he tried scrapping / slugs in his back and that's what the fuck happens.” Man, if Biggie was here he would FUCK THIS FAKE KUNG-FU-USIN' DUCK UP
00:11:10 – The would-be rapists are the first people in this whole movie to look at Howard and have the proper “what the fuck?!?” reaction. One of them blames his 'hallucination' on doing “too much toot”. Well, we've had sex, violence, and now drugs... I wonder how many of the seven deadly sins this movie will depict before it's over?
00:12:47 – Oh, they just clarified that this is set in Cleveland. Oh poor Cleveland – you didn't deserve this.
00:13:00 – Leah Thompson just said “The planet is called Earth... I think?” She should probably call the Cosmic narrator up – he could probably teach her a lot.
00:14:20 – Howard is trying to con his way into Thompson's apartment because he doesn't want to be caught out in the rain. Aren't ducks waterproof? Were all those ducks I've ever seen cold chilling in ponds secretly miserable? If so, I know how they feel.
00:15:30 – Leah Thompson's character is named Beverly, apparently, and when Howard requests a beer she gives it to him. He should've asked for some “toot” - she's an 80's rock chick so I imagine she has some on hand.
00:17:38 – Howard and Beverly are getting to know each other. He tells her that he was in medical school for awhile because he wanted appease his parents but then he decided he didn't want to be a plastic surgeon so he dropped out. Then he spent some time as a construction worker by day / songwriter at night before selling out and becoming an advertising copy writer. You know, if I was in Beverly's shoes I would be calling NASA and telling them “yo, I have proof of life on other planets”, or I would be calling a rape hotline and saying “hey I just got attacked in Hobotown after all my shitty friends abandoned me”, or I would be calling a priest and saying “dude, everything I thought I knew about the world might be wrong.” But Beverly isn't me, because she's sitting in her living room patiently listening to the sort of yuppie monologue that wouldn't be out of place in a Billy Joel song. WTF,, Beverly.
00:18:10 – Damn, Leah Thompson is still hella cute, overblown hair not withstanding.
00:20:30 – After Howard falls asleep Beverly starts rifling through his wallet and discovers a “Mallardcard” credit card and a Bloomingducks credit card AND AN UNWRAPPED CONDOM. Why would ducks use condoms that looked exactly like human condoms? They have corkscrew penises so I would think they would use condoms that were designed to fit that penis shape... Someone should call that guy who won an Ig-Nobel for doing a study on necrophelia in ducks, he would have a field day with Howard “I apparently reuse mishappen condoms” The Duck.
00:20:40 – By the way, Bevely's only response to this unwrapped condom was to say “How-ward!” and then “what am I going to do with you” under her breath. She was smiling the whole time like she was a sitcom wife who just found out that her mischievous husband had told her a white lie. Except in this case she's not talking about her husband, she is talking about a perverted extra dimensional being that she just accidentally discovered in one of Cleveland's more hobo-y areas. She must have a very high tolerance for weirdness in her life.
00:21:52 – Beverly puts Howard into a trash bag so she can put him in a taxi without the driver being weirded out. You know, more movies aimed at children should spread the message “trash bags are a really good place to hide when you don't want to be seen.”
00:21:54 – Beverly is taking her talking trash bag to meet her scientist friend played by Tim Robbins. As soon as Howard is out of the bag Robbins immediately starts freaking out at Howard's weird appearance. So basically this genius level scientist is on the same level emotional level as an over-tooted street punk. Still, I support more people freaking out when they see Howard since he looks legitimately disturbing.
00:25:40 – Robbins is now explaining that Howard must have come from a different world where the dominant life form evolved not from apes but from ducks. Ok, that explains how Howard walks upright – but how did he learn English?
00:27:34 – Beverly and Howard are now arguing in the street in front of the science museum. She just told Howard “maybe you are trapped in a world you never made but I've got problems of my own!” She is seriously co-dependent if she's already having to justify her own needs over the needs of a mutant she might the night before.
00:29:21 – Howard decides he doesn't need Beverly... But he does need a job? He's only been on earth for twelve hours - that's a hell of a work ethic. When I moved to Portland it took me at least two or three days to start seriously looking for work and I'm from this planet.
00:30:45 – Howard has gone to a government staffing agency. They aren't weirded out that he's a duck with no official documentation? His case worker is trying to help him get employed but Howard is more interested in checking out her but. He even leans in to BITE IT before she turns around and sticks some paper in his beak. She tells him she has just the perfect job fro him.
00:30:55 - Just when I thought this movie couldn't get any more randomly horny we cut to Howards new job at Hot Tub Fever where we see a woman in an open robe getting ready to fuck IN A HALLWAY. THIS MOVIE IS REDUCING ME TO CAPS LOCK.
00:31:00 – Another naked couple runs into the hallway and starts making out! Did that case worker get Howard a job at a sex club? Do sex clubs generally go through state run employment agencies? Why are all of these people so comfortable fucking in wide open spaces while talking birds watch them? WHY WAS THIS MOVIE RATED PG
00:31:10 – HOWARD ROUNDS THE CORNER AND FINDS ANOTHER COUPLE MID-COITUS. He remarks: “It must be mating season.” I remark: NO IT IS DEFINITELY INSANITY SEASON.
00:31:31 – The owner of Hot Tub Fever tells Howard that he wasn't just hired to deliver clean towels to all the bacchanal participants, he also has to go and fix all of the malfunctioning hot tubs. (Are they all those couples fucking in the hallways because none of the hot tubs work? If so why is this placed called "Hot Tub Fever" and not "Fuck in a Hallway Fever"? Truth in advertising people!) Howard says he doesn't know anything about how to fix a hot tub, so the owner physically picks him up, walks him into the hot tub room – where another couple is making out, of course – and then drops Howard directly on their laps. I know that your options for orgy-hosting fuck palaces are probably pretty limited in Cleveland, but if someone dropped a fucking four foot bird on my lap while I was getting my grind on in a non-functional hot tub I would immediately be out of there and I would NEVER come back. These people don't even notice! Hell, lets leave aside the duck thing for a second - Howard screamed “I CAN'T SWIM” as he was being tossed into the water with them. The owner of Hot Tub Fever just tried to DROWN someone IN THEIR LAPS during business hours and they didn't even LOOK UP. They must be on REAL GOOD TOOT.
00:32:07 – The owner of Hot Tub Fever just pulled a comically oversize bra from a mud bath that he wants Howard to clean and that was Howard's final straw. He QUITS! If he would only also QUIT LIFE then this movie would be over and my head would stop hurting. (Also, he didn't quit after his boss tried to drown him in a luke warm sperm tub?)
00:33:27 – Howard is now riding the bus. Someone yells at him “THAT'S A DUCK!” I guess whoever wrote this script wanted us to be very clear on the fact that the character named Howard the Duck who looks like a duck is in fact a duck, but they do not think that plot is important because we are a half an hour in and I could not tell you a single goddamn thing about where this movie is going.
00:34:48 – Howard returns to Beverly's house to discover that she has been evicted. This makes her sing a super 80's power ballad... But the song is too depressing so she switches mid-stream to a more upbeat number. This makes me wonder: should I switch to a better movie right now?
00:36:15 – Beverly's manager is collecting a wad of cash money from a perv in a fedora. Is he pimping her out? I think he's pimping her out! Jesus Christ this movie is as single mindedly obsessed with sex as Caligula – except this has more animal-sex scenes.
00:39:30 – Howard hits the manager in the back of the head with a beer bottle, then he stabbed a guy in the ear with an ice pick, and now he's threatening to give people “space rabies”.
00:40:53 – Backstage at the club Howard and Beverly are reunited like they were old lovers. The fact that she tells him that she missed him even though they met yesterday and only parted ways a few hours ago. proves that she is definitely co-dependent. Howard responds by saying that she probably just missed his “sex appeal” before crossing over to her and putting his feathered fingers on her thigh. Oh God, I DO NOT want to watch the two of them get it on.
00:41:40 – Before the two of them can hump like hot-tub crazed lunatics Tim Robbins appears in the band's dressing room with a pizza. (Which is, of course, a classic set up for a porn scene...) He spots Howard and says that he was just talking to some “astrolo-physicists”. So he knows the guy who did the COSMIC NARRATION?
00:42:00 – Howard's world has porn, beer and job placement centers but apparently they don't have pizza, because Howard just looked into one of the boxes and asked what it was. Robbins answers by saying: “it's a circular Italian food object.” You know, if that's the best way to describe Cleveland style pizza I might just stick with New York style.
00:42:20 – Howard and Robbins are not getting along - the duck just threatened to hit Robbins with a backhand. Robbins decides that it's time for him to leave, but before he goes, he tells his girlfriend (who is also in Beverly's band) “No sex now, I'm working.” Is he the least horny man in Ohio? Everyone else in this goddamn movie wouldn't stop fucking if their junk was on fire.
00:43:24 – Tim Robbins just promised to get to the bottom of why / how Howard appeared on Earth. We're nearly halfway in and we're only now getting interested in the mysterious event that happened in the first five minutes?
00:44:44 – Howard is goofing around with a keyboard in Beverly's place when she comes out of her bathroom wearing a robe, a lace top and pink panties. Then she took off the robe... Well, I'll give her this: she at least waited till the second date with the duck-man to bone down.
00:45:47 – Now he's climbing into bed with her...
OH GOD I NEED TO TAKE A BREAK FROM THIS MOVIE
TO BE CONTINUED....
Winner: TBD (just kidding, it is THE CAT for sure)