Howard the Duck (1986) (part 2 of 6)

As the narrator is blathering, Howard rockets past, heading for a silver version of the monolith from 2001.

Narrator: What is, what was, and what will be start here with the words “In the beginning there was Howard the Duck”!

Well, right on then my funky, disembodied friend.

Howard hits the monolith and it explodes into the title of the movie. To be fair, this is a lot more relaxed and soothing than the opening for Batman & Robin. Then again, so is being dragged naked over a field of broken glass while tied to the rear bumper of a truck by the tongue.

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Howard is pulled towards another pink vortex, which leads to our version of Earth. He crashes through a sign, bounces off a water tower and lands in a chair similar to the one he was sitting in earlier.

He is immediately surrounded by some mean looking biker types, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, he’s in Cleveland. They grab him and carry him off towards a club, handing him off to a rather nerdy member of their gang saying they’ve “found him a date”. Cue horrified reaction from the guy.

A bouncer (or the club manager at the very least, the guy doesn’t even look like he’d make the first cut for Road House auditions) intervenes, thinking Howard is a kid in a costume. He throws Howard out as he protests, “Hey, that’s my date!” He ends up scaring a bag lady, and while this is going on we periodically cut back to the band playing in the club, mainly to the lead singer Beverly (Lea Thompson).

The band is called Cherry Bomb, and they perform in one of those cages like we saw in Road House, so already this band has one up on the Road House one just by virtue of having Lea Thompson there. Granted, I may be biased, since I’ll take crappy ‘80s rock being sung by a cute chick over crappy ‘80s rock sung by a blind guy any day.

Caption contributed by Ed

Oh why must I be a teenager in love… with a duck?

Outside, Howard is nearly run over by a truck and then he ends up scaring the hell out of a couple making out in an alley when he cops a feel on the female side of the equation. He runs off after the guy swings a fallen road sign at him (already I can tell the wackiness of the movie is going to kill me, or at least give me a severe concussion) and is suddenly in the path of an all female biker gang called Satan’s Sluts.

On a side note, I checked the IMDb and there is no record of a movie with that title, so if you have a cheesy satanic biker movie in need of a name, it’s up for grabs.

Howard is nearly run down but he grabs a hook to swing to safety, ending up on the front of one of the bikes. He’s knocked off by the biker chick where he lands upside down in a trash can. Sighing, he pulls the lid over the can and laments, “Talk about a rotten day.”

Say what you will about the film, but in less than ten minutes it’s managed to make Cleveland look like a somewhat exciting place to be. Granted, I wouldn’t recommend that the Ohio Board of Tourism put this movie in their brochure, but still…

Beverly’s band finishes their number, and later on she’s walking down a dark street alone. Yes folks, citizens of Cleveland can rest easy in the knowledge that while their town may suck, a nighttime walk alone is nowhere near as dangerous as it is in Detroit. Or maybe not, as Beverly is accosted by a couple of “fans”.

They just happen to accost her right near the trash can Howard is sleeping in, and wouldn’t you know it, he makes his presence known as they’re about to get nasty by looking into the camera and saying, “That’s it, no more mister nice duck!”

Howard leaps from the trash can and orders the punks to let Beverly go. Their reaction is understandably dumfounded, as one would expect. He remarks “every duck has his limits” and proceeds to dispatch them with Quack-Fu. Is there some sort of element to kung fu that makes an opening for a duck pun? If there is, I sure as hell haven’t heard about it.

Onto the fight. There isn’t really much in the way of anything resembling marital arts, mainly because you’ve got a midget in a duck costume which can’t be the most mobile thing to perform in to begin with. Regardless, Howard chases them off as a storm starts up and our two leads have an awkward conversation in which Howard learns where he is, Beverly thanks him and walks off, and then rain begins to pour down in thick sheets.

A drum machine starts up (no, not the Degrassi one) and a cheesy ballad sung by Cherry Bomb starts up as Howard hunkers down to get out of the cold. Beverly sees this and asks him if he has anywhere to go, leading to a mildly amusing if predictable line.

Howard: If I had some place to go I certainly wouldn’t be in Cleveland.

Yeah, you and everybody else who lives there, bub.

She motions for him to join her and they walk to her apartment. Howard remarks on what a dump it is, as Beverly mentions her sleazy manager who has her band tied up in a bad contract and owes them money.

Oh, here, movie. Let me pick up that foreshadowing for you.

Our duo enter Beverly’s apartment, and right now, I have to wonder if she knows any reporters. That’s the only explanation I can think of for a struggling would-be musician living in a huge place like this. Well, it’s either that, or rent is even cheaper in Cleveland than one would expect. Come to think of it, I’m gonna go with door number two on this one.

Beverly starts to go on about her band while Howard looks around her place. To be frank, if I walked into a gal’s place and she had even one tenth of the randomly placed shit the art department laid out here, I’d be more focused on it than her, too.

An awkward “getting to know you” scene ensues as they introduce themselves and Howard asks for a beer. Some business with a truly weird duck purse (no, I’m not hallucinating) leads to some more awkwardness from Beverly, and if it seems like I’m being vague here, please bear in mind that I’m watching an anthropomorphic duck talking to Marty McFly’s mom. It’s a little hard to focus right now.

The awkwardness is broken up as the entire loft begins to shake. Howard freaks out a bit, flashing back to the beginning of the film, always a good thing to do when you’re not even twenty minutes in.

Beverly reassures him it was only a truck passing by, though given the amount of shaking and the fact that it seems to be a relatively well constructed building, it’s more likely that Godzilla is here to put Cleveland out of its misery.

Howard asks, “What the hell am I doing here?” which by sheer coincidence was also rumored to have been heard during screenings of this film in August of ’86. He fixates on a piano, as Beverly asks him about his planet. We learn that Howard went to med school to be a plastic surgeon (doing beak jobs and tail feather tucks, no less) but dropped out to become a musician. Failing at that, he took on a job at an ad agency writing copy.

He feels that he might have sold out, but he sometimes feels he has a special destiny. Beverly perks up at this, saying that maybe that’s why Howard was brought to Earth. Or it could be the work of shitty screenwriting. Both are pretty plausible.

He says he has no intention of sticking around and wants to get back home. Beverly agrees and as she talks about finding someone to help, Howard nods off by a window. Can’t say I blame him.

We go even deeper into the twilight zone as the music gets all tender as Beverly approaches. She strokes the feathers on his head before putting a blanket over him.

Okay, this is getting weird.

She picks up his wallet as it falls to the floor, and flips through it, finding some photos of Howard with bikini clad lady ducks (I think the writers of this film were on cocaine), credit cards (complete with obvious duck puns), money (one dollar bills, only Washington has a duck’s bill), and a condom.

Well, maybe the writers were on a mixture of cocaine and brown acid.

Now then, Beverly sits across from Howard and says “What am I going to do with you, Ducky?” while watching him sleep. Yes, not only is our heroine awkward, she’s a bit on the creepy side, too!

Man, one year she’s falling in love with her own son from thirty years in the future, and now she’s getting close to “bunny boiler” levels with a duck from another planet. Is it any wonder Lea Thompson ended up on Caroline in the City?

Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: Howard the Duck (1986)

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