- Howard the Duck (First appearance)
- Dark Overlord of the Universe (First appearance)
- Indiana Drake (First appearance) (Movie Poster)
- Dr. Walter Jenning (Possessed by Dark Overlord) (Only appearance)
- Lieutenant Welker (Only appearance)
- Duckworldians (Only appearance)
Races and Species:
- Earth-58470 (First appearance)
- Earth-86018 (Movie Poster)
- Nexus of Sominus (Only appearance)
Plot not yet listed
- Lea Thompson as Beverly Switzler
- Jeffrey Jones as Dr. Walter Jenning / Dark Overlord
- Tim Robbins as Phil Blumburtt
- Ed Gale as Howard the Duck (actor in suit)
- Chip Zien as Howard the Duck (voice)
- Paul Guilfoyle as Lt. Welker
- Liz Sagal as Ronnie (Cherry Bomb)
- Dominique Davalos as Cal (Cherry Bomb)
- Holly Robinson as K.C. (Cherry Bomb)
- Tommy Swerdlow as Ginger Moss
- Richard Edson as Ritchie
- Miles Chapin as Carter
- Howard the Duck is a 1986 live-action film produced by Lucasfilm and Universal Pictures, directed by Willard Huyck from a script by Huyck and his wife Gloria Katz. It starred Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins and Chip Zien as the voice of Howard. It was inspired by the Marvel Comics characters Howard the Duck and Beverly Switzler created by Steve Gerber, although their appearance and portrayals almost completely ignored their source material.
The film was widely panned and was a U.S. box office bomb. In his Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin calls the film a "hopeless mess of a movie." The film was also among Siskel and Ebert's picks for the "Worst Films of 1986."
Steve Gerber told Starlog that he liked it better than any other Howard the Duck script that he had read. He has retracted this statement numerous times.
"As for my comments at the time about the film script, well -- to put it bluntly, I lied. I was hoping against hope that the script and the movie itself weren't as bad as I thought they were. Or at least, that they wouldn't be received as badly as I thought they would. I hated most of the movies coming out of Hollywood at the time, and the ones I hated most turned into box office blockbusters. I didn't think my own tastes were a reliable indicator of what the public might want, so I tried to say nothing that would discourage people from seeing the film. Sadly, the HTD movie was one of the few instances in which my taste and the public's coincided.”"
Even though it was a commercial failure in the U.S., the movie managed to gross outside the U.S. $21,000,000 -- beating its domestic gross by over 55%, and therefore exceeding its costs. It was also quite successful at the Finnish box office.
The film did renew enough attention on the character for Marvel Comics to keep using the character on occasion. It also still gets television showings on RTL 2 and VOX in Germany, TVE2 in Spain, Space and CTV in Canada and the occasional screening in the UK on satellite broadcasts. Most recently it was shown on the U.S. pay-TV network Encore on July 21, 2007.
Like the film itself, the soundtrack album has its own appreciative 'cult' despite its commercial failure. The album's rarity alone makes it a much sought after collectible; few copies were produced or sold (being the soundtrack to a movie that not many people saw in theatres), the album has been out of print for decades, and the tracks have never appeared on any other releases. The 'star-power' of the soundtrack also has also added to its collectability - the original score was composed by John Barry, with additional music composed by synth wizard Thomas Dolby; George Clinton, Joe Walsh and Stevie Wonder also appear on the album.
On some B Sides of some of the album singles, an alternate version of "Don't Turn Away" was released with vocals entirely by Lea Thompson and this version is the same as the one featured in the movie.
One notable song is the "Howard the Duck Megamix", a remix of the album track, and which was released as a B Side.
The tracklisting for the original release was as follows:
- Hunger City (04:12) Performed by Dolby's Cube Feat. Cherry Bomb (lead vocals: Lea Thompson)
- Howard the Duck (03:55) Performed by Dolby's Cube Feat. Cherry Bomb (lead vocals: Lea Thompson, background vocals: George Clinton, guitar: Joe Walsh)
- Don't Turn Away (05:05) Performed by Thomas Dolby, Harmonica: Stevie Wonder Feat. Cherry Bomb (lead vocals: Lea Thompson)
- It Don't Come Cheap (04:46) Performed by Dolby's Cube Feat. Cherry Bomb (lead vocals: Lea Thompson, guitar: Joe Walsh)
- I'm On My Way (02:55) Performed by Thomas Dolby
- Lullaby of Duckland (02:28) (John Barry)
- Journey To Earth (02:42) (John Barry)
- You're the Duckiest (02:09) (John Barry)
- Ultralight Flight (02:58) (John Barry)
- Beddy-Bye for Howard (02:46) (John Barry)
- Dark Overlord (05:30) (John Barry)
- This is the first film based off Marvel Comics to be released theatrically in American theaters since the 1944 Captain America film serial.
- During its filming time, the movie was the only Marvel Comics film adaptation to be rated PG until the 2007 release of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
- This movie was intended to be start of a franchise, with Howard's voice actor Chip Zien having signed for three movies. The movie was expected to be a hit, with executive producer George Lucas throwing a massive post-production party with festivities that included a full circus. The afterparty for the film's Hollywood premiere was also expensive. The movie ended up being critically panned, and made only $5 million in its opening weeked. The movie's total box office take was $16.2 million domestic and $37.9 million worldwide, and it had been reported at the time that the movie had cost Universal Pictures $45 million, including prints and advertising. The critical and commercial bombing of the film also led to Universal Pictures' president Frank Price being fired.
- Many lines of dialog in the film are derived directly from Bill Mantlo's magazine scripts, in particular, the "Duckworld" story that Gerber has often spoken out against.
- The character of Beverly was originally offered to the then-unknown Tori Amos, but the offer was retracted when Thompson expressed interest.
- Besides Howard (who was portrayed by an assortment of stunt actors in duck suits), the only character borrowed from the comic book was Beverly.
- Robin Williams was originally cast as the voice for Howard the Duck. However, since an actor to voice Howard had not been cast during production, all of Howard's lines were read on set by the puppeteers who animated the character's animatronic bill, so its motions fit their line delivery. Williams' trademark improvisational style was rendered moot since he had to sync his line delivery to the pre-established bill flaps, which prompted him to quit almost immediately.
- Marvel made a three issue comic based on the movie called Howard the Duck: The Movie.
- Due to its commercial and critical failure, Howard the Duck has become a joke in pop culture:
- In an episode of The Golden Girls, Rose comforts a man who admits to being a primary backer for Howard the Duck.
- In an episode of Animaniacs, a video copy of Howard the Duck is used as a weapon, an exploding 'bomb'.
- In an issue of She-Hulk, Howard the Duck can be seen in the background suing a movie director who resembles George Lucas concerning the failure of his movie.
- In a song performed by William Shatner on the 2005 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To George Lucas show, he comments about how Howard the Duck was a failure, only to be escorted off-stage by Imperial Stormtroopers.
- The movie is also heavily referenced in a Howard the Duck (Vol. 6) storyline guest-starring Beverly Switzler actress Lea Thompson.