Q: THE WINGED SERPENT (1982) Blu-ray Review

Q (aka Q: The Winged Serpent) (1982) d. Cohen, Larry (USA)

Small time crook Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty) is having a very bad day. Having not worked in months, he is bullied into handling getaway car driving duties for a low-level jewelry heist, a caper that goes awry leaving Quinn with a banged up leg and minus the loot. Escaping from the law, he seeks out legal assistance from an old friend in the Chrysler Building, but upon finding the office locked, he hightails it upstairs to the observation decks where he encounters an enormous bird’s nest with a correspondingly gigantic egg sitting smack in the middle. This discovery provides him with a very unique opportunity, luring his understandably peeved criminal cohorts to their crunchy doom and demanding that Gotham city officials pay him for his exclusive knowledge about a certain winged menace that’s been getting a lot of press lately.

Betwixt the second and third of his It’s Alive films (and after being dismissed from the set of his Mike Hammer movie I, the Jury), writer/director Larry Cohen teamed with Moriarty, David Carradine, Candy Clark and Richard Roundtree for what is probably my personal favorite of his horror efforts, Q. A charmingly sardonic exercise in monster mania, Cohen spins a fantastic yarn about a giant flying lizard picking off sunbathers, window washers and constructions workers from their Manhattan rooftops, whilst surreptitiously nesting in the Chrysler Building.  This wave of airborne terror happens to coincide with the spate of grisly and bloody ritualized slayings that cops Roundtree and Carradine are investigating - could the two be related?

The titular stop-motion beastie (realized by an f/x team that included Dave Allen, Randy Cook and Peter Kuran) might be the ostensible main attraction, but it’s Moriarty’s live-wire performance that gives it its juice. Twitchy and mercurial, the actor creates a strangely sympathetic sad sack antihero, his moods and words unpredictable and dazzling (much of the performance improvised with Cohen’s blessing and encouragement).

Providing a perfect counterpoint is Carradine, whose wry delivery and taciturn demeanor yield nearly as many gems. Whether beating the street, trading hardboiled quips with his fellow badgemen, or reading up on his Aztec mythology regarding the legend of flying serpent god Quetzacoatl, the longtime B-icon (who accepted the gig as a favor to Cohen) anchors the wild proceedings in order that Moriarty and Q can let their respective freak flags fly. The always adorable Candy Clark also earns her stripes as Quinn’s long suffering companion.

Cohen’s beloved NYC is given star treatment here, with the Chrysler Building given the weighty monster movie status as the Empire State Building a half century before in King Kong. (Whenever I’m out east, I can’t help but smile when glancing skyward, imagining a thousand-omelette egg nestled in its diamond point crown.) Even more fun is how the director juxtaposes the 1933 classic by having the monster attacking from the air while its human antagonists are based atop the skyscraper.

Shout! Factory’s BR release isn’t quite as laden with supplemental materials as some of their recent treasure troves, but we are treated to a glorious hi-def presentation which shows off the soaring creature's POV aerial photography and Armand Lebowitz’s jittery editing to their full glory. Robert O. Ragland’s soaring musical score has never sounded better, horns and strings dipping and rising with the same vibrant energy as the great serpent’s shadow rippling across the urban landscape surface.

Likewise, the brand new Cohen commentary is a joy to listen to - the natural born raconteur regales listeners with a multitude of from-the-trenches memories.  Even if you’ve encountered some of these tales before in print or on Blue Underground’s previous DVD release (where he shared the mike with unabashed fan Bill Lustig), there are some things that never grow old. He is especially warm and generous when sharing anecdotes about Moriarty, with whom he would collaborate again on It’s Alive III, The Stuff and the 2006 Masters of Horror episode, “Pick Me Up.”

This is a must-have release, hitting streets August 27, 2013. For more information or to pre-order, visit http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217655

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine


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