Part of our Midnight Movies series!
Presented by Animation Breakdown. Down & Dirty Duck director Charles Swenson in person!
The 70s spree of subversion left no stone unturned, and when it came for animation it set its sights on the adored animal idols of yesteryear. Dig if you will a picture of the US Air Force raining napalm on a ghetto riot as the silhouettes of Mickey and Donald cheer them on. The scene belongs to Fritz the Cat, animation auteur Ralph Bakshi’s revolutionary 1972 debut, and sums up the deviant detours toons would take in years to come. Loosely based on R. Crumb’s beloved drugged up, sex obsessed, miscreant meower but heavily baring Bakshi’s own brand, the film follows the crude and callous kitty as he cruises for lays, runs afoul of the fuzz, dabbles with radical politics, and gets mixed up with a fascist biker gang – tokin’ and jokin’ all along the way. Its X-rating, animation’s first, increased its legend but obscured its nature. Abundantly raunchy but far from porn, Bakshi succeeded in creating the urban “documentary of the 60s” he set out to, savagely satirizing race relations, free love, and politics by way of equal opportunity offending. 45 years later and more transgressive than ever, the gruff n’ heady cult classic has lost none of its barbarous bite.
Soon after Fritz grossed a surprising $90 million worldwide, young animator Charles Swenson (later co-director of Twice Upon A Time) approached Roger Corman with an idea for his own filthy fauna freakout. Corman gave the thumbs up and just $110,000 to create the hand drawn feature that would become Down & Dirty Duck, surely the 70s scruffiest, strangest and greatest animated oddity and one that feels like it ONLY ever screened after midnight. Fresh from animating the stand-out Dental Hygiene Dilemma segment for Zappa’s 200 Motels, Swenson recruited the Mothers of Invention’s Flo & Eddie (né Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman of The Turtles) to lend their voices, songs and warped brains to the mostly improvised film. What resulted was a stream of consciousness, offend-everyone-possible tale about a morose insurance co. flunky, the ribald humanoid duck he unwittingly inherits, and their surreal and smutty misadventures. All this combined with Swenson’s strikingly psychedelic style (shaggy doodles+cutouts+collage) puts Duck even further in the comix-esque vein than Fritz. Come discover what LA Times critic Charles Solomon once called “a sprawling undisciplined piece of sniggering vulgarity that resembles nothing so much as animated bathroom graffiti” – music to the ears of the midnight movie mindset!
Fritz the Cat, dir. Ralph Bakshi, 1972, 35mm, 78 min.
Down and Dirty Duck, dir. Charles Swenson, 1974, 35mm, 75 min