Two years after Ralph Bakshi’s Fritz the Cat became the first X-rated cartoon, Dirty Duck—sometimes known as Down and Dirty Duck or Cheap—arrived to test the public’s appetite for even more counterculture weirdness involving anthropomorphized animals. Like the iffy sequel The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat, also released in 1974, Dirty Duck proved that X-rated animal pictures were not a growth industry. Crude on every level, Charles Swanson’s Dirty Duck pairs ugly, low-budget animation with tiresome content. Made in collaboration with eccentric rock duo Flo & Eddie, better known as Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, formerly of the Turtles, Dirty Duck features numerous original Flo & Eddie songs, and Volman and Kaylan play the leading voice roles. Kaylan portrays an insurance-company drone named Willard, who dreams of not only escaping his demeaning professional life but also of scoring with women. Thanks to convoluted circumstances involving a suicidal madam, Willard becomes the guardian of a talking duck, who is voiced by Volman. Despite the title, most of the screen time is devoted to Willard and his sexual fantasies. (In one bit, Willard’s penis magically assumes the size and shape of a bullet train as it pummels the nether regions of a compliant female.) Nothing in Dirty Duck is amusing or titillating, since Swanson conveys something like a teenaged boy’s snickering attitude toward sex, and the filmmakers often try so hard for boundary-pushing hipness that they stumble into pointless vulgarity; a song praising sexual experimentation suggests that viable lovemaking partners might include a tree or a corpse. Even the self-referential music jokes are disposable, notably an image of Frank Zappa (whom Flo & Eddie occasionally supported) and a snippet of “My Sweet Duck” to the tune of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” Ultimately little more than a hardcore Water Mitty rendered with grungy visuals, Dirty Duck deserves its obscurity.
Dirty Duck: LAME