Lord Love a Duck (1966) was the directorial debut of George Axelrod, the writer of the stage comedies (and later movies) The Seven Year Itch and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, co-screenwriter of Breakfast at Tiffany's, and screenwriter of The Manchurian Candidate. While he may have been a brilliant writer, based upon seeing Lord Love a Duck, directing movies may not have exactly been his forté.
Whilst scouring the web for reviews (I was sure they'd be overwhelmingly negative), I found high praise -- it described as being "Felliniesque," a "black comedy," and "a satire of popular culture." I just thought it was really, really bad.....uncomfortably, cringe-inducingly bad. How I'd love to see Mystery Science Theater 3000 do it. Those guys would have ripped it apart. But apparently it has true fans:
IMDb user comment:
The early nineteen sixties were the great age of black comic satire in American cinema. Everyone remembers Doctor Strangelove and The Nutty Professor and Lolita and One Two Three and The Loved One.In a sense, this neglected masterpiece was the culmination. Even though Axelrod wasn't a genius like Kubrick or Wilder, this film hits its target just as unerringly. Think of it as a darker, much more savage Rushmore, in which almost all the false Gods of our civilization - phony preachers, psychoanalysis, public "education",consumerism, youth 'culture',- are weighed in the scales and found wanting. Roddy McDowall and Tuesday Weld give two of the great comic performances. Indeed, McDowall is inspirational to any would-be anarchist.
Lord Love a Duck is not Dr. Strangelove or even The Nutty Professor. This blogger had positive things to say about it, as did this blogger:
Is it possible to go back home again? To recapture that feeling when you watched a particular movie that zapped you right between the eyes because it encapsulated both your inner thoughts and worldview? Almost 20 years ago, one movie really sang to me: "Lord Love a Duck."
Could these people have watched the same movie I had? This IMDb message board poster seemed to think there was a "joke" to "catch," but I'm not so sure. I think the joke was on us, the viewers, because the movie stinks:
This film was made to make fun of the "beach party" movies of its day. People who grew up watching Frankie and Annette would understand.
The first time I saw it, I tuned in late and didn't know what I was watching. My jaw nearly hit the floor during the sweater scene!
Once I caught on to the joke, it made a lot more sense.
Both the Wikipedia entry and the IMDb entry for Lord Love a Duck refer to it as being a satire:
Lord Love a Duck is a 1966 black comedy starring Roddy McDowall and Tuesday Weld. The film was a satire of popular culture at the time, its targets ranging from progressive education to Beach Party films.
A bright satirical comedy about an innocent high school girl granted her wishes by a student prodigy. A broad satire of teenage culture in the sixties, its targets ranging from progressive education to beach movies.
Maybe I don't understand the true nature of satire. Please explain to me how this is satire, much less, watchable? The "infamous" "12 Cashmere Sweaters" scene:
Filmbrain seemed to have the same overall opinion as I did about the film, and they have a good explanation and analysis of the "12 Cashmere Sweaters" scene (and some illumination on why and how, perhaps, the filmmakers were able to convince people Lord Love a Duck was some sort of a social satire):
Filmbrain is not entirely sure what Axelrod was attempting with that scene. The best guess is that it's a criticism of our need to consume and spend, and how the thrill of doing so has become a pleasure on par with sex. Shopping as the ultimate orgasm. But that doesn't change the fact that it's Barbara Anne and her father in the scene. Filmbrain is open to any and all interpretations, and is willing to admit that his imagination may have wandered too far with this one. Lord Love a Duck was recently released on DVD -- and it's well worth checking out. The disc includes a small featurette on the making of the film, narrated by Axelrod, that's nearly as bizarre as the film.
The infamous "12 Cashmere Sweaters" scene isn't easy to watch. Could it simply be due to actor Max Showalter, playing Tuesday Weld's absentee father? He's a little...over the top in that scene. Here they both are again in an earlier scene -- the "infamous" "Drive-In Pig Out" scene. The rapturous gluttony begins at about 1:00. Enjoy:
The soundtrack was largely composed by Neal Hefti, the arranger of, among other things, Sinatra and Swingin' Brass. He and lyricist/guitarist Ernie Sheldon performed the Herculean task of writing a song containing the odd expression "Lord love a duck":