Hollywood - Though the studio is pushing this blockbuster of a cinematic experience with a garish campaign emphasizing its abundance of brutality, peverted sex, dime-novel suspense and gratuitous thrills, its literary achievement, subliminal nuances and extension of the visual montage into a new dimension render its indispensible grist for the filmophile's mill. It is hoped that the crude audience it has so far attracted will dwindle once its artistic validity has been demonstrated, and that no repeats of the disgraceful displays that marred its release on the continent will occur. Though flawed, Rockin' Duck represents a well-knit confluence of the best qualities of Ophuls, Eisenstein, Capra, Truffaut, Clint Eastwood and Russ Meyer and deserves consideration from a public more educated and better-smelling that that which has been enriching the coffers of its shadowy producers.
Unconventional in structure, it is less so in content, incorporating any number of familiar tableaux from a variety of established genres:
Before their current celebrity, the perpetrators of Rockin' Duck apparently enjoyed some renown in what is called the underground. Three of them - Roger McGough, Mike McGear and John Gorman - were aligned as The Scaffold while the Liverpool poets (McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri) produced legitimately published poetry that has actually been taught in university courses (no surprise in this day and age).
McGough, McGear, Patten and Gorman seem to be the ringleaders of Grimms, the fluid multimedia affiliation that unleashed Rockin' Duck upon a world ill-equipped to deal with it, and they receive able support from Neil Innes (once associated with the notorious street gang called the Bonzo Dog Band, his is the head that wears the duck, the film's central tenacious metaphor) and Andy Roberts, an appealing, natural grass-roots sort (his moment of self-realisation in the barroom is a portrayal worthy of Ray Milland). The bit parts and cameos (David Richards, John Megginson, Ollie Halsell, Gerry Conway, Zoot Money et al.) are well-honed, as is the figure of femme fatale Valerie Movie.
The music, in which almost everyone has a hand, is no small part of Rockin' Duck's impact. This reviewer, having seen Nashville, was prepared for the country and western, and was pleased no end by the Medieval ambience evoked on occasion by Innes. The tropical strains of Gruesome (in the style, according to this reviewer's ethnomusicological colleage in the adjacent cubicle, called Raggay or some such) could easily make the hearer uncomfortable, like the sight of a pin-pierced effigy of onself.
The rock'n'roll is best left to that reviewer, but this reviewer's daughter informed him, prior to the ugly incident in the lobby that deprived him of her counsel, that it was twitchin', and that in fact she was one of the many, many Britons who had purchased Scaffold's Thank U Very Much and Lily The Pink some years ago. This reviewer, having seen Tommy, tends to think of it not as rock opera, but as duck opera.
The range of emotions and experiences, the rich blend of passion and cynicism amd the breathtaking pastice construction of Rockin' Duck ensure Grimms a prominent rank in the new commercial-cum-avant-garde cinema legion. Ultimately, however, this reviewer senses that Rockin' Duck lands somewhat short of its apparent goal - a fusion of Ivan the Terrible and Citizen Kane - and would advise the company to apply its admirable ambition in a more modest medium. Perhaps a record album....