Willard Eisenbaum (voiced by Howard Kaylan) is a meek and mild mannered insurance adjuster who wakes up one morning with a renewed sense of purpose. That woman he has admired from afar in the office? He has settled on taking decisive measures and asks her to marry him, but Willard is a dreamer and unrealistic with it. He may happily imagine the flowers on his pot plant as the face of his object of desire, but he doesn't have a chance - that is until a colourful figure enters his life and sends him on a journey of self-discovery...
Fritz the Cat may have been notorious in its day for being the first X-rated cartoon, but not many studios followed in its footsteps and created their own near the knuckle animated exploits. One exception was Roger Corman's New World who jumped on this stuttering bandwagon with their own production, Down and Dirty Duck, quickly run up on the cheap and looking it. At least you could say the money was on the screen, because this effort made Fritz look like Disney in terms of quality.
It was directed by Charles Swenson, whose career takes in the likes of cult obscurity Twice Upon a Time and episodes of Rugrats, and co-written by the reasons some still want to watch this today, that is Flo and Eddie, or Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. They had found musical success in the sixties as The Turtles (come on, you must remember "Happy Together") and had gone on to join Frank Zappa's band. Here it is possibly the music that is the main draw, so to speak, as it was undeniably the most professional aspect of the whole thing.
Although this seemed to be in parallel with Marvel's better known (and more wholesome, relatively speaking) fowl Howard the Duck, the humour could be best described as druggy and sex-obsessed, but during the first twenty minutes or so it may cross your mind that the title character is little in evidence, as mainly we follow the downbeat adventures of Willard as he trudges through his unremarkable life feeling downtrodden. Then he is sent on an errand to a tattoo parlour where he investigates a life insurance claim by an elderly woman who isn't actually dead yet, where he meets her "son", the Dirty Duck (Volman).
It proves to be a fateful meeting as the woman keels over dead and the bird, looking like a beefy Donald Duck (with a Mickey Mouse tattoo) latches onto Willard and determines to find him sexual fulfilment. Why is it in films like this that the characters end up in the desert? Here it may be because it's easy to draw, and they addtionally appear in jail and a brothel, always failing to satisfy Willard. They also meet an assortment of crazies, from unlovely lesbians to hardnosed John Wayne-soundalike police officers, there's even a Mexican official in there for comedy accent purposes. You can also spot images of John Lennon, Yoko Ono (being told to shut up) and a certain Mr Zappa too. Overall, the psychedelic adornments catch the eye, but the lack of any real jokes works against the film, and unless you're interested in the people involved it's a chore to sit through.