Lord Love a Duck (1966)

“You just tell Mollymauk what you want, Mollymauk will get it for you — we have a deal, remember?”

Synopsis:
A gifted teenager (Roddy McDowall) with strange powers befriends a beautiful senior (Tuesday Weld) and helps her achieve her dreams of popularity and fame.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary seems decidedly turned off by this “strange, strange cult comedy”, which he labels both “smutty” and “as vulgar as it is mean.” He acknowledges that “there are many imaginative, hilarious sequences”, yet argues that they ultimately “make the viewer uncomfortable”, and claims that writer/director George Axelrod inexplicably “exhibits pure hatred” rather than satire. While I agree with Peary that the film eventually “falls apart”, I find the rest of his assessment unduly harsh — indeed, up until its rather dreary final half hour, Lord Love a Duck is unique enough to keep any film fanatic on his or her toes. We’re never quite sure exactly who McDowall is (is he the devil?), where he comes from, what powers he possesses, or why he latches onto Barbara Ann with such selfless devotion, but we remain oddly fascinated.

Tuesday Weld (with her perennially child-like face) turns in one of her best performances here as Barbara Ann, a greedy yet oddly sympathetic high school beauty who’s surprised to find herself suddenly achieving her goals, one by one; the hilarious scene in which she practically seduces her estranged father (Max Showalter) into buying her 13 cashmere sweaters in various luscious colors — including “Grape Yum Yum,” “Periwinkle Pussycat”, and “Papaya Surprise” — is reason enough to recommend the film. The supporting performances are uniformly fine as well; my favorites include Harvey Korman (pre-Carol Burnett) as Barbara Ann’s easily distracted high school principal, and Ruth Gordon as Barbara Ann’s arrogant new mother-in-law (“In our family, we don’t divorce our men, we bury them!”). Unfortunately, the story begins to lose momentum once Barbara Ann marries a boring marriage counselor (Martin West) and instantly regrets doing so — McDowall’s failed attempts to “get rid of” West are out of character with his otherwise infallible powers. Equally disappointing is the denouement, in which McDowall “confesses” unconvincingly to the “true” motivations behind his actions. Nevertheless, there’s enough of interest in Lord Love a Duck to recommend it as must-see viewing for all film fanatics at least once.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Tuesday Weld as Barbara Ann
  • The creepy, infamous “sweater seduction scene”
  • Ruth Gordon as Bob’s controlling mother
  • Harvey Korman as Weldom Emmett

Must See?
Yes, for its status as a most unusual cult comedy.

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One Response to “Lord Love a Duck (1966)”

  1. Unfortunately, I have to disagree on just about all counts here.

    Great title notwithstanding, this is a spectacularly unfunny movie. I’ve seen it a few times – just now again. And two bits from the movie sum up my feeling about it – at one point, Weld tells McDowall just how bored she is (and, boy, do I sympathize); at another, a peripheral bimbo character keeps saying “What a drag!” to a producer of beach party movies (and, again, she speaks for me).

    Consistently desperate in its attempts at wackiness and counter-culture hip-ness, the film could not be more pleased with itself. But (admittedly) the 13 cashmere sweater scene aside (and that only thanks to Weld), this is a vehicle running on empty.

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