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ADVENTURES IN ANIMATION: 'Dirty Duck' (aka 'Down and Dirty Duck')

by Eli Kroes

The realm of 'adult' animation is an interesting one. For a lot of people, it begins and ends with the Adult Swim channel or 'The Simpsons.' Some associate the genre with gross-out borderline-porn flicks like 'Fritz the Cat.' To be sure, this is only a small chunk of the animation that's not intended for children. In fact, the earliest cartoons were meant for an adult audience, and there is a lengthy list of terrific animated features you don't have to be twelve to enjoy. 'Adventures in Animation' will feature reviews of such films...

'Dirty Duck' (aka 'Down and Dirty Duck') - 1974, Directed by Charles Swenson

First off, this is DEFINITELY not a movie for kids...if you couldn't tell from the title, and NC-17 rating. That being said, it's also not as raunchy as you could imagine, considering most people think it's a 'Fritz the Cat' knockoff from the early-70's adult animation boom.

For my part, I don't see how this is that similar to 'Fritz.' It's a lot stranger, has a much smaller budget, and the ideas aren't really rip-offs by any means. Also, whereas 'Fritz' has a definite linear structure (and a story at all, for that matter), 'Dirty Duck' wanders around aimlessly, and might have originally been conceived as a bunch of short vignettes which were later tied together haphazardly.

The titular duck doesn't even show up until about 20 minutes into the movie. At first, we are introduced to an insurance company office-rat named Willard who is about to ask his secretary to marry him...even though they've never even spoken. He seems to think it'll go okay, which it does not. In fact, it ends in a sexual harassment lawsuit, and his boss sends him on a job seemingly in retaliation (because it's a client nobody else wants to deal with.)

The client, a strange old lady who is obsessed with Ouija boards, dies after Willard shouts at her, and then curses/blesses him by making him take ownership of her 'duck.' The duck is kind of like Donald Duck, wearing a blue sailor's uniform, but obviously much cruder. She promises that he will be 'free' now that he has the duck, although the two very shortly end up in jail for some reason that isn't clear.

Basically, they go on a few adventures together, where Willard learns how to shun society and be 'free.' The film kind of goes for a while, then just stops. Also, if anything could be called 'psychedelic' animation, then this is definitely it. Most of the story is told through bizarre dream sequences, and the animation walks the line between amateurish cartoon and Monty Python-esque cutouts.

It is worth noting that members of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention were connected to this, providing several of the voices. The music is also terrific and hilarious.

So, if you're into the kind of sleazy 70's animated features that got played in late-night theatres, this is definitely one to check out. It is very original, and also very hilarious and strange. The low budget seems to have forced those involved to be more creative with backgrounds and animation. And, in my opinion, it is MUCH better than 'Fritz the Cat.' Although I am a die-hard Ralph Bakshi fan, I feel that was his weakest effort.

Plus, since this is a little-known artifact of that era, it's free on Youtube.

Photo by Animation Stuff.