Down and Dirty Duck
|Down and Dirty Duck|
|Directed by||Charles Swenson|
|Produced by||Jerry D. Good
Roger Corman (uncredited)
|Written by||Charles Swenson|
|Music by||Flo & Eddie|
|Distributed by||New World Pictures|
|Release date(s)||July 8, 1974|
|Running time||70 min.|
Down and Dirty Duck, promoted under the abbreviated title Dirty Duck, is a 1974 American adult-oriented animated film directed by Charles Swenson and starring Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (Flo & Eddie) as the voices of a strait-laced blue collar worker named Willard and an unnamed duck, among other characters. The plot consists of a series of often abstract sequences, including plot material created by stars Kaylan, Volman, Robert Ridgely, and, according to the film's ending credits, various people Swenson encountered during the making of the film. Dirty Duck received mostly negative reviews, with many criticizing it for its crude humor and others seeing the film as an attempt to cash in on the success of Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat. Dirty Duck fared better on home video and is considered a cult film.
Willard Isenbaum, a lonely insurance man with wild and sexual fantasies, decides to propose to the new secretary, Susie, whom he has only known for a day and to whom he has never spoken. He spends the entire morning before work fantasizing about having sex with her, but his attempts to approach her fail. His female boss sends him to investigate a claim filed by Painless Martha's, an aging tattoo artist, who works in a prison. Martha believes in a Ouija board message saying that she will be killed by a wizard on a Tuesday.
When Willard tells her that the insurance company won't pay until her death, she dies of a heart attack. Her will stipulates that her killer must take care of her duck. After the duo spends a night in jail, the duck takes Willard to a brothel. After a wild night of partying, they wind up in the desert, where the duck dresses Willard in women's clothing in an attempt to get a ride. After several encounters with an old prospector dying of thirst, a racist police officer, two lesbians, and a short Mexican man, they are finally picked up by a trucker.
Back at his apartment, Willard creates a makeshift sex object, which the duck eats. Shortly after, Willard discovers that the duck is a girl, and has sex with her. The following morning, Willard and the Duck go to Willard's job, where Willard has sex with his female boss, and quits his job shortly after. Willard and the Duck leave, and the movie ends with Willard saying that the Duck was "a good duck" after all.
- Howard Kaylan - Willard Isenbaum / Negro Lady / Side Hack Rider
- Mark Volman - Duck / Side Hack Rider
- Lurene Tuttle - Duck's Mother
- Robert Ridgely - Car Salesman / Man at Bus Stop / Negro Gentleman / Big Fag / Police Officer / Tank
- Cynthia Adler - Lady In Car / Boss Lady / Small Dyke / Lady In Elevator
- Walker Edmiston - Bus Driver / Jail Orator / Small Fag / Prospector / Mexican Official / President / Man in Elevator
- Joëlle Le Quément - Land Lady / Lady at Bus Stop / Madam / Big Dyke
- Jerry D. Good - Transvestite
- Aynsley Dunbar - Additional Voices
After the release and success of Fritz the Cat, several animated films meant for adults rather than children enjoyed success. Fritz, a film based on a character created by artist and illustrator Robert Crumb, was the first animated movie to receive an X rating in the United States. Swenson developed Down and Dirty Duck as a project for former Mothers of Invention band members Kaylan and Volman under the title Cheap! Had the film been released under this title, as director Mick Garris notes, the title would have been Roger Corman's Cheap! However, Corman observed the title as a shot at his production techniques, and asked that the title be changed. The film's production budget was $110,000. According to Swenson, he created almost all of the animation himself, although publicity attributed the animation work to the Murakami-Wolf Production Company. Although the film was promoted as an X-rated animated film, New World Pictures had not actually submitted it to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The film was also promoted as Dirty Duck, although the title on the film itself reads Down and Dirty Duck.
When the film was released, the distributor did not promote it heavily, and most reviewers disliked it. Because the film was X-rated, the New York Times refused to run the film's advertisement. This was a somewhat awkward situation, as the ad included a positive review from the New York Times. According to Swenson, "it didn't have a big following, . . . but it is still in video stores." The film played for about two weeks in New York. Jerry Beck wrote a review in which he called the film "raunchier than Ralph Bakshi's films." He went on to say that the animation and humor of the film "is good, but the design and drawing is downright awful. It seems to be sort of a cross between Jules Feiffer and Gahan Wilson, if that can be imagined." Beck also stated that the film was "very similar to R. Crumb's Mr. Natural and Flakey Foont. There is no reason that the duck should be a duck. Every character in the film is human, and he just seems to be a duck just to give the film a catchy title. There are some highly imaginative animated ideas here, but the film's entertainment value is at a minimum." Beck later called the film "one of the most overlooked animated features of the 1970s, a glorious experimental mess of a film, which, from today’s vantage point, looks incredibly creative and daring, and something current Hollywood studios would never attempt."
Playboy noted that the advertisements for the film said, "this film has no socially redeeming value" and continued "well, that's dead right, yet this movie has some value as a promising X-rated cartoon in the tradition of Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat. The New York Times called it a "zany, lively, uninhibited, sexual odyssey that manages to mix a bit of Walter Mitty and a touch of Woody Allen with some of the innocence of Walt Disney [and the] urban smarts of Ralph Bakshi," while Charles Solomon of The Los Angeles Times called it "a sprawling undisciplined piece of sniggering vulgarity that resembles nothing so much as animated bathroom graffiti. [The film is] degrading to women, blacks, Chicanos, gays, cops, lesbians, and anyone with an IQ of more than 45," and Variety said that the film "has little to recommend."
Accusation of plagiarism
Dirty Duck was also the title of a comic strip created in 1971 by Bobby London, which appeared in National Lampoon magazine and now appears in Playboy. While the film itself is not related to London's character or comics, the underground cartoonist claimed that the film was plagiarized from his comic strip and that "[Robert] Crumb's lawyers, by the way, refused to help me stop these guys."
- Cohen, Karl F (1997). "Charles Swenson's Dirty Duck". Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 89–90. ISBN 0-7864-0395-0.
- Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-55652-591-9.
- Garris, Mick (September 3, 2008). Beck, Jerry, ed. "Trailers From Hell: Dirty Duck". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 2009-02-14.
- Markstein, Donald. "Dirty Duck". Toonopedia. Retrieved 2007-04-20.
- London, Bobby. "A Word From The Original Creator". Retrieved 2007-01-21.
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