November 21, 2014

Cheapskate Film Festival: LORD LOVE A DUCK

Admittedly, Lord Love A Duck is - to pardon the pun - a bit of an odd bird.

It's gained a bit of a cult status, but mostly because it has such a unique tone. It's part beach party parody, part comedy of manners, but most importantly, it's a dark, cynical satire that seems made more for the present than it did for the mid-1960s.
Of course, it shouldn't seem too surprising - Lord Love A Duck was written and directed by George Alexrod, the same writer who brought us The Manchurian Candidate.

Our story concerns two high school seniors: Alan (Roddy McDowell), who has a high IQ, calls himself a "mollymauk" (a bird that should be extinct, but isn't), and may be a budding sociopath; and Barbara Ann (Tuesday Weld), a beauty with big dreams, high hopes, and strong ambitions. When both of them meet, and Alan promises to help Barbara Ann gain what she wants most in this world....the consequences are both long-standing and hilarious.

If you're expecting a gut-busting comedy, you'll be disappointed - there's a cynical, almost mean-spirited streak throughout the film. Every level of society - from high school to romance to family - is viewed from a very skewed, knowing perspective. Some sequences feel like high end satire - from Alan's encounter with his high school principal (Harvey Korman) to a sequence between Barbara Ann and her father that feels less like mother and daughter and more like a date - and others show a nice, darkly sarcastic tone.

Lord Love A Duck, despite its mid-1960s setting, has a very modern feel. That may be why the film has gained such a cult following - there's a "cookie made of arsenic" (to quote Sweet Smell of Success) only lightly sweetened by a bouncy score from Neil Hefti. It's hard to know who the audience for this film would be - there are nods to the youth audience (a title card announces "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing: Go To School. Get Knowledge. Live Dangerously"), but some content focusing around Barbara Ann's mother, a struggling cocktail waitress (Lola Albright) is definitely more adult in tone. Perhaps that's why the film may have failed in its initial run.....

....but some of its perspective, and its insight and focus feel much more "in place" with a 21st century audience. Lord Love A Duck is, admittedly, an acquired taste - not everyone is going to enjoy this for the same reason. In fact, much of the script contains incidents which may be off-putting, but Lord Love A Duck is definitely a movie to see at least once in your life.

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