Willard Isenbaum, a lonely insurance man with wild sexual fantasies, decides to propose to the new secretary, Susie, whom he has only known for a day and to whom he has never spoken. He spends the entire morning before work fantasizing about having sex with her, but his attempts to approach her fail. His female boss sends him to investigate a claim filed by Painless Martha, an aging tattoo artist, who works in a prison. Martha believes in a Ouija board message saying that she will be killed by a wizard on a Tuesday.
When Willard tells her that the insurance company won't pay until her death, she dies of a heart attack. Her will stipulates that her killer must take care of her duck. After the duo spend a night in jail, the duck takes Willard to a brothel. After a wild night of partying, they wind up in the desert, where the duck dresses Willard in women's clothing in an attempt to get a ride. After several encounters with an old prospector dying of thirst, a racist police officer, two lesbians, and a short Mexican man, they are finally picked up by a trucker.
Back at his apartment, Willard creates a makeshift sex object, which the duck eats. Shortly after, Willard discovers that Duck is a she, and has sex with her. The following morning, Willard and the duck go to Willard's job, where Willard has sex with his female boss and quits his job shortly after. Willard and the duck leave, and the movie ends with Willard saying that Duck was a good duck after all.Howard Kaylan - Willard Isenbaum / Negro Lady / Side Hack Rider
Mark Volman - Duck / Side Hack Rider
Robert Ridgely - Car Salesman / Man at Bus Stop / Negro Gentleman / Big Fag / Police Officer / Tank
Walker Edmiston - Bus Driver / Jail Orator / Small Fag / Prospector / Mexican Official / President / Man in Elevator
Lurene Tuttle - Duck's Mother
Aynsley Dunbar - Additional Voices
Cynthia Adler - Lady In Car / Boss Lady / Small Dyke / Lady In Elevator
Joëlle Le Quément - Land Lady / Lady at Bus Stop / Madam / Big Dyke
Jerry D. Good - Transvestite Fag
After the release and success of Fritz the Cat, several animated films meant for adults rather than children enjoyed success. Fritz, a film based on a character created by artist and illustrator Robert Crumb, was the first animated movie to receive an X rating in the United States. Charles Swenson developed Down and Dirty Duck as a project for former The Mothers of Invention band members Kaylan and Volman under the title Cheap! Had the film been released under this title, as director Mick Garris notes, the title would have been Roger Corman's Cheap! However, Roger Corman observed the title as a shot at his production techniques, and asked that the title be changed. The film's production budget was $110,000. According to Swenson, he created almost all of the animation himself, although publicity attributed the animation work to the Murakami-Wolf Production Company, with Academy Award Winning animator Fred Wolf, credited as his son's name, Bill Wolf, helped animate parts of the film personally. Although the film was promoted as an X-rated animated film, New World Pictures had not actually submitted it to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The film was also promoted as Dirty Duck, although the title on the film itself reads Down and Dirty Duck.
Despite the use of the title Dirty Duck, the film has nothing to do with the Dirty Duck character created by Bobby London and published in National Lampoon and Playboy magazines.
When the film was released, the distributor did not promote it heavily, and most reviewers disliked it. Because the film was X-rated, The New York Times refused to run the film's advertisement. This was a somewhat awkward situation, as the ad included a positive review from The New York Times. According to Swenson, "it didn't have a big following, ... but it is still in video stores." The film played for about two weeks in New York City. Jerry Beck wrote a review in which he called the film "raunchier than Ralph Bakshi's films." He went on to say that the humor of the film "is good, but the design and drawing is downright awful. It seems to be sort of a cross between Jules Feiffer and Gahan Wilson, if that can be imagined." Beck also stated that the film was "very similar to R. Crumb's Mr. Natural and Flakey Foont. There is no reason that the duck should be a duck. Every character in the film is human, and he just seems to be a duck just to give the film a catchy title. There are some highly imaginative animated ideas here, but the film's entertainment value is at a minimum." Beck later called the film "one of the most overlooked animated features of the 1970s, a glorious experimental mess of a film, which, from today’s vantage point, looks incredibly creative and daring, and something current Hollywood studios would never attempt."
Playboy noted that the advertisements for the film said, "this film has no socially redeeming value" and continued "well, that's dead right, yet this movie has some value as a promising X-rated cartoon in the tradition of Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat. The New York Times called it a "zany, lively, uninhibited, sexual odyssey that manages to mix a bit of Walter Mitty and a touch of Woody Allen with some of the innocence of Walt Disney [and the] urban smarts of Ralph Bakshi". Charles Solomon of The Los Angeles Times gave the film an extremely negative review, calling "a sprawling undisciplined piece of sniggering vulgarity that resembles nothing so much as animated bathroom graffiti. [The film is] degrading to women, blacks, Chicanos, gays, cops, lesbians, and anyone with an IQ of more than 45". Variety commented that the film "has little to recommend."