Q - The Winged Serpent (1982)
By: Drexl on January 1, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Blue Underground (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DTS 6.1, English 2.0, English 1.0. 92 minutes
The Movie
Producer/Director: Larry Cohen
Starring: Michael Moriarty, David Carradine, Richard Roundtree, Candy Clark.
Screenplay: Larry Cohen
Music: Robert O. Ragland
Tagline: 'Just call it 'Q' - That's all you'll have time to say before it tears you apart!'
Country: USA
AKA: The Serpent
New York city is having a bad time of it. An as yet unidentified lunatic is roaming the city, relieving people of their skin and internal organs in some bizarre ritual (as you do) and ditching the rather messy looking corpses here, there and everywhere. Just to further add to the Big Apple's problems, what is believed to be a giant bird is picking off roof-top sunbathers, high-rise construction workers and window cleaners at will, causing bloody body-parts to rain down on the bemused pedestrians below. Could the two be connected? You betcha.

After a little investigating, NYC cop David Carradine has come up with a theory: The bird in question is an Aztec Serpent God named Quetzalcoatl, (what do you mean stupid spell checker - you don't recognise that?!) - or 'Q' to her friends. 'Q' has been stirred by the aforementioned lunatic's skinning/gutting rituals to feast on the New York population and generally make a nuisance of herself, (and pop out a few sproggs for good measure.) Sadly for Carradine, his immediate superiors are unwilling to believe his tall tale and so he needs a little help proving it. The required help is, fortunately, at hand in the unlikely form of loser, ex-junkie villain Michael Moriarty, who has actually seen the Serpent in it's lair, (and used it to dispose of a couple of criminal associates), perched at the top of the Chrysler Building. While being busted for a petty crime, Moriarty hears of Carradine's predicament and offers to cut a deal with the NYPD - he will lead them to the creature in exchange for a pardon for his crimes and, opportunist that he is, seizes the chance to make a quick buck (well, a million of them to be exact), out of the situation. The deal is done and Carradine, Moriarty and a few dozen, armed-to-the-teeth police officers trudge up to the top of the Chrysler Building to dispose of NYC's unwanted visitor. Well, that's the idea anyway…

Q - The Winged Serpent certainly has a lot going for it - just about everyone loves monster movies, so that's a pretty good start but what sets Q apart from the pack is the quality of the writing, direction and the performances of the cast, (check out the cast list again, there are some big names there.) Cohen's script is sharp, well written and fast moving and his direction is equally assured; he makes the most of some great looking New York locations and throws in a fair few dizzying shots from the top of the Chrysler Building, (vertigo sufferers will want to look away on more than one occasion!) Special mention must also go to the film's music score - it really is cool. Sounding a little like a '50's science-fiction movie soundtrack (intentionally, I guess), it fits the bill perfectly, especially the excellent theme tune. The special effects are decent enough, (in that cheesy 'B'-movie kind of way), especially when you consider that the film was made for around a million dollars and is approaching 25 years old - although Cohen restricts the viewer to brief glimpses of the Serpent until the very end of the movie. (Anyhow, don't you all just love those corny old special effects?) Cast wise, Carradine is great as the NYC cop and is given excellent support from Richard Roundtree, but the real star of the show, in front of the camera at least, is Moriarty - his performance is nothing short of superb. Simultaneously coming across as both pathetic and funny, Moriarty steals every scene he is in and plays his loser character so effectively you almost feel sorry for him, especially during the scene where Carradine is attempting to talk him into revealing the Serpent's location before the million bucks is handed over - Moriarty babbles away with bug-eyed excitement, almost talking himself out of his windfall while the viewer can only watch and cringe in pity.

I really can't criticise this movie on any level - it does exactly what it says on the tin and does it especially well with a great script, great cast and great direction. True, it is a 'B' movie through and through but who cares? It doesn't pretend to be anything else and is thoroughly entertaining for the whole of it's 92 minute runtime. Give me Q in preference to Godzilla and similar Hollywood drivel anytime, thank you very much.
'A stunning new Widescreen transfer from the original negative' is how the blurb on the back of the case describes what is on offer here and Q does indeed look pretty good. There is a moderate amount of grain present throughout but it's hardly intrusive and doesn't spoil the viewing experience in the slightest. There are one or two, very brief, instances when the colour is a touch lacking and some viewers might notice an, again very infrequent, lack of detail in the transfer but, on the whole, this is a decent quality transfer considering the age of the movie. The print used is in good shape and almost completely free of damage.
Blue Underground spoil us again with a choice of four soundtracks. 5.1, DTS, stereo and the original mono soundtrack. Each track is clean and sharp with regards to music, dialogue and sound effects. The soundtrack is especially effective during the high-rise scenes with wind whooshing all around. Good work.
Extra Features
The main extra on offer is a commentary track featuring Larry Cohen and Bill Lustig. The two chaps chatter away like the old friends that they are and pack the track with loads of interesting and amusing facts. Cohen tells of how he was fired from a major Hollywood feature and decided to shoot his own movie instead - racing through pre-production for Q in an astonishing one week. Other amusing stories include tales of shooting at the top of skyscrapers during power failures, (in the dark, no-less), and hair-raising, night-time helicopter trips through the New York skyline to film the Serpent's POV shots. The commentary is never boring and is easily one of the most interesting and informative tracks I have heard in a long time.

The usual trailer follows next. I must admit it's a pretty lousy trailer, in my humble opinion at least, but it's included all the same. Next up is a comprehensive, and very interesting, biography of Larry Cohen and a short-ish gallery of behind-the-scenes photographs and promo art. Lastly we have some DVD-ROM goodies in the form of some trade and press releases, text interviews with the people involved in the movie and other promo materials.

The menus are animated and scored and the disc comes complete with a poster reproduction inlay which also carries the chapter listing.

All in all, a nice selection of bonus goodies - heck, even the cover art is cool.
The Verdict
I'll happily confess that Q is one of the most entertaining movies I've seen in many a month, it really is terrific fun and, happily, it also manages to avoid many of this particular sub genre's usual shortcomings as performances both in front of, and behind the camera are top-notch. Add to this the fact that Blue Underground have, once again, gone the extra mile to provide customers with a value for money package and you have a release that comes highly recommended for those looking for a little undemanding entertainment.
Movie Score
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