One of the most bizarre movies of the 1980s was Howard the Duck, based on the minor comic book character of same name. TV writer Andrea Kail was aware of the movie’s awful reputation, but was still surprised at how bad it was.
“I pretty much watched the entire thing with my jaw on the floor,” Kail says in Episode 494 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It was insanely terrible in every possible way.”
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley remembers loving Howard the Duck when he watched it as an 8-year-old, but agrees that the movie is a train wreck. “It’s a really weird combination of a kid’s movie, an Animal House-style sex comedy, and a horror movie,” he says. “Some of those things could go together, but the kids and the sex comedy part doesn’t work together.”
Howard the Duck was produced by George Lucas, hot off the success of the original Star Wars trilogy. Humor writer Tom Gerencer says that fame had clearly gone to the director’s head. “[Howard the Duck] works as a comic,” he says, “but then thinking that you could take that and it would work as a live-action movie just takes the kind of egomania you only get after you just made the biggest-selling movie of all time and you think, ‘I can do anything.’”
Science fiction author Matthew Kressel was appalled by Howard the Duck, but notes that the film does have its defenders. “I know some people love this movie,” he says. “If you go on the Gen X Reddit forum, every now and then they do, ‘What was your favorite movie of the ’80s?’ and Howard the Duck came up. Some people are like, ‘I love Howard the Duck! Oh yeah, it was so funny.’”
Listen to the complete interview with Andrea Kail, Tom Gerencer, and Matthew Kressel in Episode 494 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Tom Gerencer on Weird Science:
“I still love it as a story of two nerds who desperately want the wrong thing and then almost learn to want the right thing. Having said that, I do want to get into the politics. I feel like every movie from the ’80s that we discuss, we spend 10 minutes excusing the casual racism and sexism. ‘Well of course they killed puppies in this movie. Back then that’s what we did. We killed puppies.’ I think after a while I start to feel like I’m doing something wrong by saying that every time. … Every kid in my class endlessly quoted the [jazz club] scene, and we thought it was great. And watching it as a grown-up I was cringing through the whole thing. I was just like, ‘Ugh, this is horrible.’”
David Barr Kirtley on Innerspace:
“The character arc, I think, is supposed to be that Dennis Quaid is confident but not caring—and that’s why he has this whole fight with Meg Ryan at the beginning—and Martin Short is caring but not confident. They form this team, and then over the course of the movie Dennis Quaid teaches Martin Short to be more confident and Martin Short teaches Dennis Quaid to be more caring. And it sort of does that in terms of Martin Short’s character development, but doesn’t really do anything with Dennis Quaid’s character development. And I think that’s the biggest missing hole in this movie for me, is that then he gets back together with Meg Ryan at the end, and they get married, and it’s like, ‘Well wait, none of their relationship issues were addressed or resolved or even really mentioned in this whole movie.’”
Matthew Kressel on Escape from New York:
“I think the setup of the film is great. I love this idea of: ‘Crime is so bad, let’s just wall off Manhattan and put all the criminals in there and let them fend for themselves.’ … You know the scene in the film where they’re like, ‘Oh, this is Broadway! Why are you driving down Broadway?’ And everyone’s just throwing stuff at their car. This actually would happen if you drove down certain streets in the city. I remember people throwing stuff at our car, like fireworks, and of course there were the squeegee men who would put stuff on your windshield, then clean it off and ask for $5. The city was pretty bad. So I love it that John Carpenter is like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to just take this to the extreme. The city’s so bad it’s now a prison colony.’”
Andrea Kail on Night of the Comet:
“I think I did see it in the theater, and I was—I’m fairly sure—the same age as the characters at the time. It really hit me exactly where it should. I knew those characters because I was those characters—selfish, self-involved, rebellious against parents. There’s the scene where she goes, ‘The stores are open. What do you want to do?’ And they go shopping. Everything about it was exactly who I was. … And watching it again, it held up to me. There are some quibbles about the ridiculousness of the science, but just as an adventure story it moves really well, the characters are fun, and it’s funny. The scene in the shopping mall with the evil stock boys is fantastic.”