Howard the Duck (1986) (part 4 of 6)

A Cherry Bomb song comes up and Howard notices the club they were playing at, as people filter in to see them perform. In the club, Beverly sings as Howard enters, and I swear to god this scene is so close to a similar one in Staying Alive it actually scares me a bit. To be fair though, this film is slightly better than that film, if only for the fact that we’re spared endless crotch shots of the male lead. I’m sure most of you would agree.

Beverly stops in mid-song, saying it’s way too depressing, a sentiment I can’t help but agree with. Seriously, this song is almost up there with “My Way” in terms of just bringing an audience down to a level where the club starts handing out a number for a suicide hotline. She switches from sappy sad to hard rock, as Howard observes a really douchey looking guy in a fedora shouting towards the stage. He goes to an obnoxious guy with sunglasses, who turns out to be the band’s sleazeball manager, so it looks like the film’s plot is finally going to kick in a little bit.

Howard the Duck (1986) (part 4 of 6)

Our sleazeball in question is holding out on giving the band their money until Beverly sleeps with him. Howard turns up on the stool next to the guy as he and his cronies laugh. We get this film’s equivalent of a Clint Eastwood type scene as Howard casually asks for the band’s money while striking a match on his bill, adding in a veiled threat to boot. You know, Clint can make this sort of thing work. A midget in a duck suit? Not so much.

The band manager has one of his guys handle Howard, which he does by grabbing our hero and sliding him down the bar. Wow, that gag was old when Clint Eastwood was a contract player with Universal in the ‘50s. What’s next? Is the sheriff going to come in and give Howard one day to get out of town?

Beverly notices the commotion as Howard gets up on the bar and starts beating up the manager’s guys. He ends up pinning the manager to the bar through the guy’s earring, and gets him to cough up the money and amazingly enough, this is just as run of the mill as it sounds. The only thing keeping it from being boring is the aforementioned “midget in a duck suit” gimmick.

By the way, we’re not even halfway through this thing. This film needs an enema.

Howard gets the guy to resign as the group’s manager and keeps the guy’s crew from interfering by threatening to bite him and give him space rabies. He holds off an entire crowd with this bluff, and I have to say this was a lot more entertaining when it was Eddie Murphy intimidating an entire redneck bar in 48 Hrs.

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Beverly sees the crowd dispersing and ends the set in annoyance. The band enters their dressing room and Howard shows up to the delight of the band. Beverly and Howard reunite, with Bev saying she missed Howard, to which he replies, “Sex appeal, some guys have it.”

Howard apologizes, and then the worst possible thing that could happen happens. Phil enters with a pizza, and a creepy line about how he came to see the girls undress. Is there some way we can punish Tim Robbins for this movie? Maybe force him to watch his pitching scenes from Bull Durham while Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson make fun of him the whole time or something?

Phil has apparently been dating one of the band members (I won’t bother to make a joke about bad taste in dates, as the film does it for me) and he also has been working on figuring out how Howard ended up on Earth.

He comes up with some nutball theory too stupid to even get into and is quickly dismissed by Beverly and Howard. More stupidity from him ensues and he leaves, but not before tossing off this line to one of the band members.

Phil: No sex now, I’m working.

He must be working twenty four-seven just based on his general appearance, personality, not to mention the simple fact that the universe is somewhat sane and rational on a deep metaphysical level that precludes just about any girl from being desperate enough to even consider making the beast with two backs with him.

The band and Howard go downstairs and Howard reveals the results of his little chat with their former manager. They’re thrilled and before anything good can come of this, Phil comes downstairs. After some chattering from the hairless ape, he gets a feather from Howard (quite unwillingly on Howard’s side of things, I might add) and is chased off into the night. Why he feels the need to get it from Howard’s ass is beyond me, and given the way this guy behaves I think we’re all better off not knowing.

Howard and Beverly head back to her place. And yes, the express train to Wackyland is boarding right now. This would be one of the few times it’s advisable to leap off a speeding train.

Howard is playing around with a synthesizer as Beverly has apparently just showered and is now drying her hair, if the background noise is any indication. Howard starts up a beat and begins to dance and considering Ed Gale is stuck inside a hot, probably not altogether easy to move in suit, he dances fairly well. I wouldn’t put him on Dancing with the Stars next season, but hell, he’s better than Jerry Rice at any rate.

I should also note that Howard is wearing a red plaid coat so hideous that even homeless people would take a pass on it.

He begins to improvise a song and Beverly comes out of the bathroom, apparently liking what she hears. Well, that makes one of us. To me, it sounds like a person dry humping an accordion.

Beverly watches and laughs and for some reason we get shots of Howard’s ass feathers. Some talk of Howard’s high school band comes up and Beverly suggests he become her band’s manager. I should also note that during this she’s in a wide open robe showing off her bra and underwear. Well, okay, I really didn’t have to mention this but screw it! This is the Agony Booth, we’re heavy into details. Like a stoner after joint number ten.

Howard isn’t interested at first but begins to change his mind as we see Beverly getting ready for bed. Oh, I don’t see this ending well for me. Beverly invites him to the bed to watch Letterman and at this point I’d really love to be struck blind right now. Beverly talks about not being able to find the right man to which Howard starts flirting.

Beverly appears to be ready to take it to the next level and Howard tells her he was joking. Beverly goes on, slipping her hand under his pajamas, after which the feathers on his head stand straight up.

Howard the Duck (1986) (part 4 of 6)

She finally reveals she was only kidding and we see their shadows behind a screen as she kisses him goodnight.

If I may make a brief aside, if this film in any way influenced that similar scene in the second Austin Powers movie, I’d like to invite the makers of this film to jump up my hole. Thank you.

As Beverly finishes smooching our creepy looking male lead, Phil enters with two scientists. One guy doesn’t really matter but the other is Walter Jenning, played by Jeffrey Jones, pre scandal which tarnished his image and made every movie he ever appeared in an uncomfortable viewing experience for anybody with a pulse. And morals. And common sense.

Howard the Duck (1986) (part 4 of 6)

They approach, surprising Howard and Beverly. You know, this is just like an episode of Three’s Company. Only creepier and with less Don Knotts.

Phil and his buddies startle the hell out of our leads and finally, after forty five minutes, the plot kicks in as we learn how Howard ended up in Hell—Uh, I mean Cleveland.

Jenning and a team of scientists have been testing some kind of laser thingy that I’m not going to embarrass the shit out of myself trying to properly explain. Basically, some sort of glitch turned it into a giant dimensional space vacuum that managed to suck Howard up and deposit him on Earth. This exposition is aided by video camera footage of the incident which is capped off by a feather falling down into Jenning’s hand.

Wow, and to think I thought I was all out of reasons to dislike Forrest Gump.

Jenning asks if Howard has any questions, to which he replies, “Yeah, where are my pants?” before walking off, saying how he wants to get back home. Jenning and the other guy go into technobabble mode, trying to figure out a way to reverse the process that brought Howard here, while Phil tries to sell Howard on some TV show appearance and if you’re having trouble following this, welcome to my world.

Howard the Duck (1986) (part 4 of 6)

A sort of plan is kind of made in a roundabout way and Howard is enthusiastic while Beverly is a bit sad. Also, she’s thinking about how much she’ll miss Howard. She has a tender moment with Howard and we’re finally achieving some forward momentum plot wise.

And no, this won’t last.

Later, Phil drives Beverly and Howard in a van with the other scientist guy riding shotgun. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse for a movie character than I do for this guy. To be stuck in a van with the love child of Jerry Lewis and Jar-Jar Binks must be like having acid slowly poured into your eyes, or being forced to watch the second Transformers film.

In the back of the van, Howard and Beverly are getting sentimental with each other. I have to say, it’s not often you get pathos mixed with a fever dream hallucination.

Before we can start making syrup with the film, the van arrives at the lab where the Accidental Vacuum is. There’s trouble apparently as the guard shack is empty and a ringing phone can be heard.

The van approaches the building and there is a rather bad effect shot of the building with what looks like a giant trumpet pointing towards the sky. I guess ILM sank most of its money into making sure the Howard head looked suitably nightmare inducing—uh, I mean, lifelike!

They enter the building as alarms blare and find the lab in shambles, with a horribly burnt but still alive technician babbling about what happened, and the machine itself shooting sparks while terrified scientists and technicians scramble to get away.

So, I guess something went horribly wrong then.

An explanation for what happened and where Jenning is comes from a scientist played by David Paymer of Mr. Saturday Night fame. Uh, you can’t really call it fame, I guess. Let’s go with “Noted Character Actor” and move on. Apparently he got caught in the second explosion in this machine’s history.

So, I guess in 1986 safety protocols were about as popular as disco, then?

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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