The Million Dollar Duck (1971)

G   |    |  Comedy, Family, Sci-Fi

The Million Dollar Duck (1971) Poster

Professor Dooley takes home a duck from his research laboratory as a pet for his son, but soon finds out that it lays golden eggs.


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24 August 2018 | Voyage2-2
| Acquired minor appreciation needed
It is fashionable to rag and bash this movie. The points are understood. Take 1930's cornball humor, mix in the physical comedy of the Stooges and Keystone Cops, with the backdrop of a story from Antiquity, the goose who laid the golden eggs. Place it in modernity, being more the generic mid 20th Century with a lawyer and US Treasury folks. It's 1971, but the movie appears to ignore the changing outside world. The 'far out dudes' Wadlo boys give a wink to the Hippy Era, but not much else. It's small town California, a point which is made deliberately, which ironically harkens back to then President Nixon's growing up. Gold and small towns, one only can imagine if any super seniors from rural America ever saw this at the time. Gold was no giver to prosperity in their eyes, Williams Jennings Bryan and 'free silver' were all the rage.

The movie suffers from terrible timing. A huge shift in taste was sweeping the country, as this is more in tune with the rural sitcoms of the late 60's, recently purged, and less with the new 'dramadies' of 'All in the Family' and 'MASH.' If you remember 'Get Smart,' you might forgive some of the 'cheese' here. The silly chase scene at the end, who does that in a movie ? Hummm, 'The French Connection' (picture of the year in 1971) ? This wasn't a hip time to be a young kid, I'm of the X'er generation. It wasn't like the late 50's/early 60's (Boomers) or the 90's (Millennials), time periods hailed for Disney creativity.

If you're reading this, you probably have some appreciation for the humanities...some history and motifs of literature. Let's look at this differently. First, the characters. Sandy Duncan as the flighty housewife sends the critics into orbit. 'All in the Family' used this characterization as satire, here and even in 1971, it's uncomfortable. Let's say that's just a misunderstood bit of humor and exaggeration. For wide acceptance...a miss, ok. Joe Flynn checks in with his staple uptight bureaucrat as the Treasury agent. Dean Jones, the 'everyman' father and family man. An image he would work with on other more successful Disney films. Tony Roberts launched his film career as his slippery lawyer, works well for even modern audiences. The rest of the cast is rounded out with some longtime Hollywood figures, mostly of the past.

Some imagery and motifs. Mrs. Dooley gets a phone call from the bank one morning, because she's 'overdrawn' on her checking account. A crusty old 'banker' threatens to call her husband. Charlie the duck...offers a deposit. At the teller window, a balding middle aged guy with a three piece suit. Not too far fetched for small town banking in the late 60's, circa 1970. Not that unlike the experience of their parents in the 40's. Those old guys probably cut the Dooley's mortgage years ago. Fast forward thirty years later ? ATM's, online banking, mortgages cut from online services, tellers 20-something ladies with a blouse from Target and if you ask an officer at the bank too many questions besides hours and building address, they'll reach for the phone and call the 1-800 number. Later in the film, with the Feds ponder keeping the golden Charlie a secret, the first foreigner on the montage is French, notorious in the era for collecting US gold to settle trade debts. When the Dooleys and Fred arrange chase, the call Katie gets is on...a RED phone. Later, when the Feds are caught up in a traffic accident and announce to the crowd they're with the government, one patron says, 'Government ! No wonder you got everything all loused up !' A cynicism more fitting to the late 70's rather than on the heels of the 'go/go 60s'

Lastly the gold politics. We're in small town California here. Although McKinley's 'gold bugs' won California against Bryan 'free silver,' in 1896, gold was of the New York bankers and big city industrialists. Worker bees and farmers chose inflation supported 'free silver.' But, in 1971, the gold standard was on its deathbed. Mr. Nixon, who 'appears' in the movie, would take us off the gold standard entirely within a few years. So, own all the gold you want, as we go total fiat currency, a world none of the creators really lived through. The yellow sports car would never go for 7,995 dollars again.

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