In about an hour, I am going to see Howard the Duck
(1986) on 70 mm at the Somerville Theatre. It's part of their second annual 70 mm & Widescreen Festival
, which started this Wednesday and runs through the rest of the month; last year it offered me such superlative viewing experiences as Lord Jim
(1960), Sleeping Beauty
(1959) and Tron
(1982), and this year I am starting with a duck from another planet. We're meeting my parents for it. My father unironically loves Howard the Duck
. He ranks it with '80's cult classics like The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
(1984) and has always felt it deserved a sequel. I have not seen it since high school at the latest and have peculiarly fragmentary memories of the plot. The opening sequence is picture-clear: Howard on his home planet greeting a Playduck
centerfold with "My little airbrushed beauty!" before being sucked through space and time into Cleveland, Ohio where he rescues a new wave chick from some lowlifes with the ancient martial art of "Quack Fu." She has a band. I want to say he ends up managing it. After that things start to break up. I remember that an eldritch thing possesses Jeffrey Jones—and that it happens for the decently Lovecraftian reason that it is never a bright idea to open a door at random into the deep reaches of space when you don't know what might be on the other side—but I don't remember the mechanism or the immediate consequences, except that I have the vague sense of a road trip. I remember that Chip Zien voices Howard, when I know him much better for his work in musical theater. IMDb tells me that this movie was also the first place I saw Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins. I'm really looking forward. Other films I am planning to catch on 70 mm include Wonder Woman
(2017) and Cleopatra
(1963), which should really be something on a big screen, as should an IB Technicolor VistaVision print of North by Northwest
(1959). I am a little sorry to have missed The Dark Crystal
(1982) earlier this evening, but it has been a long and stressful day. There's always the matinée repeat on Sunday if I really feel like it. In the meantime, there's a space duck.
 Yeah, sorry, haters. Howard the Duck
is a delightful sci-fi comedy. Lea Thompson is a surprisingly credible new wave frontwoman. Tim Robbins is so young and so gangly. Jeffrey Jones is no Emilio Lizardo, but he chews good scenery as the possessed scientist. There are practical effects. There is stop-motion. (There are too many fight scenes and things blowing up, but I feel this way about most movies with any action quotient.) And there is a road trip, with a pit stop at a nuclear power plant. The script is sweet and full of consciously comic-book dialogue and it plays its interspecies romance straight; the only joke that really pulled me up short was a tossed-off sex-change line which mercifully goes by fast. I can't imagine swapping out any of the actors, especially Zien. I had completely forgotten about Richard Kiley as the introductory narrator, B-movie style. I don't even think it's an enjoyably bad movie: I just like it. And I have seen perhaps the last remaining 70 mm print in the world. No regrets.