The cult comic book character Howard The Duck is blasted from his outer space paradise to Cleveland (USA). Here he becomes an unlikely love interest for Lea Thompson (inter-species love?).
They said it couldn’t be done. Steve Gerber’s offbeat ’70s comic book about a foul-tempered, beer-guzzling, cigar-chomping duck simply wouldn’t translate to film.
Not even Lea Thompson as the leader of an all-girl, all-huge-hair band could make it work.
But braving the odds against them, Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz did it anyway. And if there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this, it’s that sometimes the naysayers are right.
Howard The Duck will go down in the annals of history as one of THE all-time great bombs.
Howard can’t help it if he’s different. You’d look pretty funny on Duck World, where the evolutionary chain begins and ends with waterfowl. But when an Earth-based laser experiment sucks him out of his pond and into ours (in Cleveland, no less), suddenly he’s the freak.
The only person who seems to understand the sentient, cigar-chomping, beer-drinking duck from another planet is pretty Beverly Switzer (Thompson), lead singer of The Cherry Bombs. Several ladies auditioned unsuccessfully for the role of Beverly – amongst them Tori Amos, Belinda Carlisle and Phoebe Cates.
Working with Beverly, Howard pieces together how he got here. Laser scientist Dr Jenning (Jeffrey Jones) has an experimental giant laser beam that went haywire and now accidentally works as a transporter, bringing in beings from other worlds.
Unfortunately, the latest arrival is a bad egg (sorry, sorry), the Dark Overlord of the Universe, who now inhabits Dr Jenning’s body and feeds on electricity by plugging his tongue into a truck cigarette lighter.
With a little help from bumbling baby-faced lab janitor Phil Blumburtt (Tim Robbins), Howard and Beverly set out to defeat the Dark Overlord and save the planet.
Filled to the beak with duck puns (Howard reads Playduck magazine, carries a Mallardcard, etc), Howard the Duck scored some laughs from the kids, but not enough to keep packing the cinema seats.
George Lucas disowned the project, which he had executive produced, further tarnishing the much-maligned mallard’s reputation.
Lucas spent $2 million on Howard’s duck suit, and eight different actors worked inside the costume. The total budget topped $37 million and the movie took an ignominious swan dive at the box office, recovering only $16 million. The most amazing thing about the movie is how cheap it looks considering the vast amount of money spent!
The movie was nominated for seven Golden Raspberry Awards in 1986 including Worst Director (Willard Huyck), Worst Original Song (“Howard the Duck”) and Worst Supporting Actor (Tim Robbins). It won four Razzies, for Worst New Star (“the guys and gals in the duck suit”), Worst Visual Effects, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Picture, which it tied with Prince’s Under the Cherry Moon.
It was released in the UK as Howard: A New Breed of Hero.
Howard T. Duck
Dr Walter Jenning