Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


The "Dark Overlord" about to strike
HOWARD THE DUCK (1986). Director: Willard Huyck.

Due to experiments involving a "laser spectroscope" conducted by Dr. Walter Jenning (Jeffrey Jones), an innocent fellow named Howard (Ed Gale, Chip Zien and others), who lives on a world where ducks are intelligent and capable of speech, is sucked out of his universe and into ours. There he tries to find his way in a strange new world of "hairless apes" while befriended by rock singer Beverly (Lea Thompson) and observed by wannabee scientist Phil Blumburtt (Tim Robbins of Mystic River). Unfortunately Jenning tells them all that his laser beam has also swept up a horrible creature called a Dark Overlord of the Universe, who takes over Jenning's mind even as it hopes to take over the world. Will anyone survive? Well ... Howard the Duck is based on a satirical Marvel comic book and it could easily be dismissed, as it was, as utter schlock were it not for the fact that it has some genuinely amusing moments, good FX, and some good acting from the principals, especially Jones in a funny turn as the possessed, hostile Jenning. The first half of the film, once you get used to the main character being a little guy in a duck outfit, has some minor whimsy to it (as well as a cute scene when a job counselor tells Howard she'll get him a job no matter how weird he tries to look), there's a fairly exciting sequence with Howard and Phil trying to fly off in an odd homemade contraption with wings, and the stop-motion effects [Phil Tippett of Starship Troopers 2] of the giant, slithering, creepy, scorpion-like Dark Overlord are excellent. Unfortunately, this just doesn't add up to a very good movie, and it's often more loud and busy than entertaining. Jorli McLain has a nice bit as a waitress in a diner. John Barry's [Goldfinger] score, including a memorable heroic theme, is better than the movie deserves. Howard was created for the comics by writer Steve Gerber.

Verdict: You want to like it but ...  **.

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