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Q--The Winged Serpent

Q--The Winged Serpent

video review by Gary Johnson

When the American Film Institute recently announced its list of the 100 greatest American-made films, Q--The Winged Serpent was nowhere to be found. However, if a list of the 100 strangest American-made films was created, Q would be one of the front runners. It might even make the top 20. And I mean that with all due respect.

Now, we can marvel at Q again in a new video from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Presented in a letterboxed edition that has been digitally re-mastered, Q looks better than it has in years.

Directed by Larry Cohen (who also directed the infamous monster-baby movie, It's Alive), Q could have been just another cheesy monster movie--the kind that Roger Corman's New World studios turned out by the dozen in the '70s and '80s. While Q is indeed cheesy, in a charming sort of way, it also contains a first-class cast, led by Michael Moriarty, who delivers an inspired, method-acting performance. He sweats profusely, mutters incoherently, and stumbles around the sets while grinning like a fool who has just seen the face of God. In a sense, he has seen the face of God, except it's an Aztec god, a fearsome dragon-like creation named Quetzalcoatl that has been summoned to modern-day New York City. It has built a nest in the top of the Chrysler Building. Occasionally, it zips around the neighborhood, plucking its victims from rooftops (with an apparent appetite for sexy female sunbathers).

In addition, Richard Roundtree (of Shaft fame) and David Carradine (of Kung Fu fame) play police detectives investigating the recent rash of killings, while Candy Clark plays Moriarty's faithful girlfriend.

The video cover notes, supplied by Larry Cohen himself, boast a similarity between Q and Reservoir Dogs--a comment that I assumed was pure hyperbole. But wait, there's some truth in it, for Moriarity participates in a robbery that goes horribly awry. However--as in Reservoir Dogs--we aren't witness to what happened. This mystery becomes just as compelling as the monster itself.

This mix of plot elements and characters makes for a strange combination. Usually, the presence of a giant monster tends to attract all of the attention away from the humans. But in Q, director Cohen provides such a fascinating mix of human characters that the monster almost seems like an afterthought. Quetzalcoatl zooms around New York skyscrapers, virtually unseen by the citizens until late in the movie, while Moriarty runs from the gangsters that he betrayed. It's a strange but compelling mixture.

Usually, mixtures like this one don't work: the parts end up working against each other. But in this case, the mix is so audacious and so effectively realized that all the parts become compelling in their own right. Q is a fascinating and bizarre movie.


Q--The Winged Serpent is now available from Anchor Bay Entertainment in a digitally mastered, letterboxed edition. Price: $14.95.


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