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Cashew Lou's Yukon Annex

I've got Pop-Pop in the attic.

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Lord Love a Duck
Those of you who have never heard of the film title that is also the title of this post are no doubt scratching your heads right now. Well, if you ever have the chance to see Lord Love a Duck, you will be scratching all the more.

I had the opportunity to see this film with baktre last night; his review of the film is on his LJ at http://baktre.livejournal.com/419031.html. I am doing my best not to copy from his homework, I promise. o(:o)

I have put together somewhat of a tl;dr review of the film, basically because I can't stop thinking about it. Since there be spoilers lurking about, I will put it after a cut.

Lord Love a Duck stars Roddy McDowall, Tuesday Weld, Harvey Korman and Ruth Gordon; those are the only concrete facts I can readily say about this film. It was released in 1966, and I am guessing it was aimed at a teenage/college student-aged drive-in theater market. The adult characters in this film range from the merely sad to the outright creepy; none of them are likable. A quick rundown of the major characters follows:

Alan "Mollymauk" Musgrave (Roddy McDowall): Alan is the Mephistophelean character in the Faustian elements of this movie's plot; he always has the solution to every problem and obstacle that ever crops up. He is freewheeling and weird, and has no permanent residence; he just shows up wherever he can do the most good--or the most damage. It has been argued his character isn't even human; I tend to agree with this. If he isn't a minor demon or imp, the only conclusion I can reach otherwise is that he is a pure sociopath; neither is a good option.

Barbara Ann Greene (Tuesday Weld): Barbara is a gold-digging social climber who is sick of her one-bedroom apartment life (a bedroom she shares with her mother), and she wants it all: a closet full of cashmere sweaters, a successful husband, a movie-star career. With Alan's help, she gets all these things to some degree, although each come at a cost; her character's shallowness really comes through when you see she could care less, as long as she ultimately benefits. She is manipulative to the nth degree.

Marie Greene (Lola Albright): Marie is Barbara Ann's mother, a divorcee who is barely making ends meet as a cocktail waitress. Her character is almost pure pathos; she had a rich husband and a decent life, and all of it got away from her. You almost want to empathize with her, but it seems she really isn't trying all that hard. She is never shown outside her apartment, and she is almost never more than 18 inches away from a lit cigarette or alcohol.

Bob Bernard (Martin West): Bob starts out as a real sleaze; he is the pastor's partner at a drive-in church, and his sole motivation seems to be as a predator, "chaperoning" the young women of the congregation. Oddly and almost inexplicably, his character goes from disgusting lech to brainless and powerless victim, horrible things happening around him as he passively watches, his controlling mother, Barbara Ann and Alan controlling every facet of his wrecked life.

Stella Bernard (Ruth Gordon): Stella is just a piece of work. She has a new-age hippie sort of aura about her, even though she is middle-aged; she gulps down yogurt and practices yoga. Her dead husband, we learn, was a psychiatrist, and she uses the flimsiest of pop psychology to over-analyze and control her son Bob.

One thing that struck me after I saw it was that it would be almost impossible to market. Style-wise and thematically, it is a mess; it ranges from slapstick to Frankie-and-Annette teen beach party to A Clockwork Orange. In one scene, Bob is barreling down the street in a sabotaged car that literally falls apart before our eyes, much along the lines of a Keystone Cops comedy; in another, we are asked to deal with Marie's sudden suicide. There are no mood cues or transitions; it shifts sloppily and abruptly from one to another.

All the while, though, the characters bounce off one another in such odd and perverse ways that it is almost impossible to look away. baktre pointed out the creepiest scene in the movie, and it illustrates my point exactly: Barbara Ann decides she wants a pile of cashmere sweaters, so she can be part of the popular girls' club in her high school. She manipulates her rich daddy to take her shopping, and he laughs boisterously as she shows him every color of sweater she can find. His laugh is obnoxious as hell, punctuated with snorts and grunts that make him sound like a manic bull in rutting season, and it gives the whole scene an squirm-in-your-seat sort of Electra meets Lolita kind of feel. As a contrast, later in the film we see him again, dealing in a very somber manner with his ex-wife's suicide. The movie insists you take him seriously at that point, but after the sweater shopping scene, you just can't.

Lord Love a Duck is a movie I think I want to see again, after I have been able to ruminate on it a while. I guess if I were to boil it down into one sentence, I would have to say it is a mess, but a somewhat attractive mess, in a passing-by-a-car-accident sort of way.

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The weird faustean element makes the scene of "signing their name" a bit creepier, the contract that sets everything in motion. I'm still putting this on my List of Films to Avoid :)

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