Q – The Winged Serpent – Larry Cohen – 1982

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As a kid I used to rent movies a lot, and I would always look at the fantasy box art and try those films. 99.9 percent of the time, the box-cover was very misleading and the films were pretty soft. I remember seeing the box for Q and thinking, “No way that film is as good as it is in my head”. I was right. It’s better.

It truly seems there was something in the water for filmmakers in 1982. Somehow, throughout my entire life I went without seeing Q – The Winged Serpent. My mistake. This film is everything I wanted out of a movie since childhood and on into the present. Sleazy characters, a giant monster, killer cults all swirl together in one of the finest creature features ever unleashed by these United States.

The plot is truly inspired. A selfish small-time crook knows the nesting location of an ancient Aztec deity that is terrorizing Manhattan, and he blackmails the city in order that he tell them where it is. Michael Moriarity is truly despicable, humorously so. He’s such a little weasel, that you believe his every cowardly move. But the characterizations are so good, even with as fantastic conceit as this one can’t help but empathize with this shlub.

By using a slimy crook as a protagonist, the audience is allowed to both view man as victim to this beast and also an evolutionary leftover, bereft of values and ethics. By this virtue, we worry about the creature’s victims before they are eaten or attacked, but the tone is not so somber that we don’t giggle and enjoy it as sunbathing debutants are gobbled down by a prehistoric evil.

David Carradine is equally great as a police detective who deals with the larger than life situation with measures of levity and gravity. His attitude is frequently aloof, as though he knows how ridiculous this all is, but he never shows a lack of concern for the public. It is a fine turn for Carradine by all measures.

The gore in this film is abundant, horrific and funny. From decapitations, to sliced abdomens to the turning of baby Pterodactyl into green spaghetti sauce, this film has many, many opportunities to turn up the gross out gore factor and always goes for the gold.

How is the monster? Amazing. The film starts by representing him with a series of aerial shots of Manhattan. These shots in and of themselves are great and lovely to look at for long stretches, but throughout the picture, director Cohen reveals more and more of the beast until the end, where we actually have cops standing on the Chrysler building firing at the thing. The camera makes wide, sweeping shots, showing as operatic a view of such warfare as the original King Kong.

I was thrilled by the exciting pace of the film, and found myself wrapped up in its’ excellent characters. I’d recommend this to anyone, of any age with a pulse.

Story has it that Larry Cohen had been fired off of another film in New York and wrote and pre-produced this film in six days. Q-The Winged Serpent was a hit film, much larger than the film he had been fired from. The moral is: always make a monster movie.

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