BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review

Howard The Duck (1986) - 4K Restoration

Howard The Duck

After Howard the Duck’s surprise appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy, I knew it was only a matter of time before Universal went into their vaults and hatched our fowl friend’s blu-ray debut for audiences.

And why not?  Thomas Dolby and George Clinton wrote the theme song.  John Barry wrote the score (and teased his Dances with Wolves melody).  Lea Thompson sings.  And dances.  And wears next to nothing while in bed.

And then there’s something about a sarcastic duck…

Oh, well.  You had me at a scantily clad Lea Thompson...

"certainly ridiculous and definitely edgy as it flirts with the idea of sex between a woman and a duck but it’s all so perfectly harmless"


Over the years, I’ve seriously wondered just what the hell critics and some audiences were thinking in their condemnation of this flick when it was originally released.  Maybe it should have been animated.  Maybe it should never have been attempted.  Who cares?  The resulting film is an absurdity that is unyielding in its approach.  It’s loopy as all hell.  And, in my opinion, it’s precisely what it needed to be – even if Steve Garber’s beer-drinking comic book character is a bit too tame – to show a potential for growth.  So why all the hate, mofos?!

It’s not a good film.  I’m not about to have that debate and yet there’s something to all this nonsense that makes it leave something more than just a scar on the retina as you watch.  The madness of it all makes it bound for B-movie appreciation and, truly, they don't get any CULTIER than with Howard The Duck.

I’m not going to suggest that Howard The Duck was ahead of its time.  It really wasn’t as its absurd nature is perfectly suited for the mid-1980s.  While never a great film to begin with, there’s absolutely NOTHING insulting about the hard work producer Gloria Katz and director Willard Huyck put into the project.  What I am going to suggest is that – upon watching this organic 4K debut from Universal this week – Howard The Duck was possibly never seen in the right context.  Even if it is castrated a bit, it is far too much irreverent fun for most kids and adults to even begin to understand, let alone tolerate.

As I stated, it is perfectly bizarre.  A talking duck (voiced by Chip Zien), with better clothes than I, is “beamed” from his planet of Duckworld to ours thanks to an experimental dimensional-jumping device created by scientists in Cleveland, Ohio.  Yes, from Duckworld to Cleveland, that’s the territory covered by Howard The Duck and – with Jeffrey Jones playing the possessed “bad” guy and Tim Robbins as the cool nerd (before nerds were in style) – should tell you all you need to know about the profound seriousness of this one.Howard The Duck

He is immediately confronted by a gang of criminals harassing Cherry Bomb’s lead singer, Beverly Switzler (Thompson).  With a style of martial arts known only to his fellow ducks, Howard defeats the gang and rescues her and the two – after she accepts his peculiar looks – become fast friends.  The big change from the Marvel comic is that Howard is much more likable than he is on the panel.  He’s still oversexed, perverted, and rude but – with Thompson as the sweet rock star girlfriend who needs saving in more ways than one – he needs to be a bit more approachable and the performance of Ed Gale (in the suit) seals the deal.

The film is essentially a tale of a duck out of water who finds himself falling in love.  It’s also much better than its reputation would have you believe.  Note the Ultralight sequence (directed by Captain America’s Joe Johnston) and the work of production designer Peter Jamison and director of photography Richard Kline, who were both hired to make the film look and read like a visual comic book. 

There is NO reason for its insane critical bashing at the time of its release.  No reason.  The special effects – thanks to some of ILM’s finest – are STILL top notch.  I was struck by how well they’ve held up.  Even the Dark Overlord creatures – designed by stop-motion animator Phil Tippet – look solid in 4K. 

Howard The Duck is certainly ridiculous and definitely edgy as it flirts with the idea of sex between a woman and a duck but it’s all so perfectly harmless that the amount of abuse it took just becomes obtuse and questionable.  The film adaptation – originally initiated by George Lucas – might have played down the surrealist swagger of the comic book, but they definitely stayed true to the vision of Garber’s creation.

Thankfully, Howard The Duck currently enjoys a rising cult status among audiences and will be, as both Lucas and Mel Brooks predicted, appreciated by future generations yet to come. 

With this release, Howard The Duck DEFINITELY gets the last laugh.

5/5 beers

 

Howard The Duck

4K Details

Home Video Distributor: Universal
Available on Blu-ray
- July 6, 2021
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS:X; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; Spanish: DTS 2.0; French: DTS 2.0
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

In this sci-fi comedy from executive producer George Lucas, Howard the Duck is an extra-terrestrial fowl who is accidentally beamed to earth by physicist Dr. Jenning (Jeffrey Jones) and his assistant Phil (Tim Robbins). The two go looking for Howard and find him in the home of Beverly Switzer (Lea Thompson), who was rescued by the interstellar duck from some mean-looking thugs. Beverly and Phil are friends, and when the government finds out about Howard, she helps Phil and Dr. Jenning hide him from the authorities until they can zap him back home. In the meantime, several wild chases and spectacular special effects keep the picture rolling along.

Video:

Cleveland rocks!  This, like Jaws (also courtesy of Universal) is an immaculate and honest restoration. I say honest because nothing reeks of modern proclivities encroaching on this cult classic. What you get is a flawlessly detailed print, grain intact, and as a result, at this 2160p/HDR presentation is as detailed and immersive as you have ever seen this duck from space get. The organic depth of color leaves the previous blu ray in the dust. From opening to ending, the darks are inky black and the vibrant colors pop off the screen. There are almost imperceptible shots that are a touch on the soft side, and the optical effects stand out more so at this resolution, but this is completely faithful to the source, organic even, and the finest the film has ever looked.

Audio:

The new DTS:X mix is also another massive upgrade over the previous release. With new overhead channels mixed in, a robust soundscape awaits your ears. Again, the start of the film wastes no time in showing you the difference aurally as well as visually.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Special Features:

They are the same that were previously available on the DVD release.  The most important one is the near 30-minute making-of featurette that covers the history of the movie.  The rest is a relative minefield of mini-docs and archival featurettes, including a look back that focuses on the special effects.  Of second and special interest is the 13-minute reflection on the film’s dismal reception. This release also includes a Movies Anywhere digital copy code.

4K Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4.5/5 stars


Film Details

Howard The Duck

MPAA Rating: PG.
Runtime:
110 mins
Director
: Willard Huyck
Writer:
Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz
Cast:
Lea Thompson, Tim Robbins; Jeffrey Jones
Genre
: Comedy
Tagline:
You will believe that a duck can talk.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I've given up trying to assimilate. I've got to get back to my own kind!"
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
August 1, 1986
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 6, 2021.
Synopsis: From executive producer George Lucas and the pages of Marvel Comics comes this unbelievably funny comedy about a fast-talking, cigar-chomping, beer-loving duck from a parallel universe who crashes to Earth.

Art

Howard The Duck

 

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