Although Disney is invariably thought of as an animation studio,
the House of Mouse has also produced some undeniably classic
live action films. Family-friendly motion pictures that stand
the test of time due to Walt Disney's high standards, not to
mention an earnest enthusiasm radiated by the actors and no
small degree of wit and inventiveness from the screenwriters.
include such gems as Mary Poppins, The Absent-Minded
Professor, The Love Bug and The Parent Trap.
Note that Million Dollar Duck from 1971 isn't in that
list. If there's a film that more perfectly sums up the uninspired
mediocrity that Disney Studios gleefully wallowed in following
Walt's death, I'm hard-pressed to name it.
Riffing on the fable of the goose that laid the golden egg
— or rather, bludgeoning it with a sledgehammer over and
over, lest an audience of deaf and blind cretins somewhere overlook
the duck-resembles-a-goose connection — this is one movie
that misfires on all cylinders.
It's not that it's bad. A bad film might have at least offered
some entertainment value of the MST3K vein. No, Million Dollar
Duck is mediocre by choice, never quite reaching beyond
safe platitudes or stock characters, because hey, if they tried
for some quality or depth and missed the mark, well, that would
Instead, Million Dollar Duck chooses to be a feature-length
Brady Bunch episode, in which the Bradys ditch all the
kids but one and come into posession of a duck that lays golden
eggs. Hijinks ensue. In the end, everyone learns that love is
more important than money. The film even comes complete with
those high-quality, Brady-era bedroom sets, complete with twin
beds for the husband and wife. Kind of makes you wonder how
they ever had that one kid in the first place, doesn't it?
The plot, what there is of it, centers around Professor Albert
Dooley (played by Disney stalwart Dean Jones) and his efforts
to study animal behavior. For some unexplained reason, he's
obsessed with the learning skills, or lack thereof, of a particularly
stupid duck that lays eggs when it hears a dog barking. The
duck manages to get itself irradiated in a nearby lab —
the eclectic research center is one that would make the Professor
from Gilligan's Island proud — and begins laying
eggs with solid gold yolks.
Dooley's wife, Katie (Sandy Duncan) is a brain-addled ditz
who inadvertently utters sage wisdom in the Gracie Allen mold,
only without the sagacity or the wisdom. His son, Jimmy (Lee
Montgomery), when he's not whining for a puppy turns in the
most wooden performance this side of Jake Lloyd in The Phantom
Menace, while next-door neighbor and Treasury agent Finley
Hooper (Joe Flynn) his hot on the trail of the suspected underworld
The climactic courtroom scene is awkward and falls flatter
than the similar one from Son of Flubber, while the penultimate
car chase goes on and on and on while committing the double
sin of being both boring and unfunny. The only sequence that
comes close to being amusing is an early swimming pool confrontation
between a dog and the duck. The fact that the human actors are
tangential to the events probably contributes significantly
to the scene's appeal.
If Million Dollar Duck stands as one of the worst films
of the 1970s Disney era, then this DVD stands as one of the
worst Disney packages in the DVD era. Even for a mediocre movie,
some effort should be taken to utilize the DVD format.
Instead, it seems that every effort was made to undercut the
very premise and flexibility of DVDs.
The version of the film here is a full-screen pan-and-scan,
and to make matters worse it's taken from an old print, with
more than an occasional scratch and flaw. With the film lasting
merely 93 minutes, and dual-layers so common, there is no excuse
for Disney not to include both full screen and widescreen versions
on the disc, particularly in light of the fact that there are
absolutely no other features on the disc. No theatrical trailers,
no commentary, no deleted scenes or cast and crew biographies.
If it weren't for the fact that the disc offers scene selections,
this release would be undistinguishable from one taped off The
Wonderful World of Disney on Betamax, circa 1979. Why bother?
I advise those tempted to pick up Million Dollar Duck
is to resist that impulse and hold out for the upcoming August
release of The Boatniks on DVD. It's not a very good
movie, either, but it's from the same era, and Phil Silvers,
Norman Fell and Don Ameche are good for at least a few laughs,
generating a loopy charm that elevates the film to something
close to likeable. That alone is more than Duck ever
had going for it.
The Movie Itself: 3 out of 10
The DVD Features: 1 out of 10