June 26, 2008

Lord Love a Duck

The lovely Tuesday Weld in the bizarre sweater scene

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.

George Axelrod

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."

Max Showalter doing what he did best.

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:

That's a father and daughter, by the way.

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":

"Down on my luck-o, stuck in the muck-o!"


Michael Suzich said...

Hello Chris,

I wholeheartedly agree with you. The “12 sweaters” and “pig-out” scenes are overtly and inappropriately sexual in nature (considering it's father and daughter), and I’m sure that was the director’s intent. Not my cup of tea, Pally. It’s quite interesting to see Max Showalter (Grandpa Fred from “Sixteen Candles”) playing the part of Tuesday’s Dad. Hey, I greatly look forward to you reviewing one of my favorite avant-garde flicks from the period, “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”

Chris said...

The subtle sexual nature doesn't really bother me -- both of those scenes are just so weird. Weird and annoying. Yes, I guess that's why he looked so familiar! He was one of the grandparents in Sixteen Candles, a must-see movie for our generation. Ooh - I'm not sure I'm "equipped" to handle Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. Maybe someday!

gilligan said...

What in the name of all that is holy was going on in that sweater scene? How did this get past editing?

I was mildly perplexed when she started gasping "perriwinkle pussycat" and Showalter was laughing maniacally. But things got profoundly disturbing when she started writhing around on the floor while dear old dad made violent contortions of the face.


Chris said...

I think it's all about the editing. Axelrod most have thought it was on the cutting edge. But everything about it is just so bizarre. Showalter must have been an odd fellow. Tuesday Weld probably wasn't a picnic, either.

peteski said...

Great post, the answer to the question is Tuesday Weld.

Chris said...

I just knew she was the answer!

Anonymous said...

Just saw this on TV- I totally regret it. I want to rinse my brain.

Anonymous said...

Where is your sense of humour and parody? It's meant to be over-the-top - that's the idea...! Its consumption fetishised. Consumption as a hunger, akin to food and sex, as a ravenous delight.

Take it for the vintage era, comedy / parody, that it was intended.

And relish in the equally ravenous delight that is Tuesday Weld. lol

Old corpsman said...

I worked at the Wiltern in Los Angeles where this played; so I saw it about a dozen times and when it comes to mind, as it does even after all these years, I ask myself the same question: "What was it about?"