Today in New York City the winged serpent rules!
Larry Cohen is an auteur of B-movies, a man who doesn't care how extravagant the premise of a film is. Be it mutant babies, killer yogurt, or giant flying demons in New York, Cohen makes sure that he gets the job done (and is apparently not overly concerned if the end result looks good or not). Cohen is the mad mind behind such horror classics as the It's Alive series and the fat free dessert-gone-amuck flick The Stuff. In 1982 Cohen pre-dated Jurassic Park by letting lose a giant dinosaur (a pterodactyl to be exact) on the city that never sleeps in Q: The Winged Serpent. Anchor Bay dusts off this classic and throws it on DVD in its original widescreen version for the first time!
Facts of the Case
New York is the sort of place that holds all kinds of secrets. A few examples: Why "Cats" played for so long on Broadway. Why the pizza there is so dang good. And finally, why there is a giant, scaly serpent living at the top of the Chrysler building. Cohen alumni Michael Moriarty plays Jimmy Quinn, a dim-bulb crook who stumbles across the giant beast that's been dipping into pools and rooftops to pick off innocent bystanders as meals. How did this gruesome creature end up settling in New York unannounced? Well, it has something to do with Aztec rituals, sacrificial alters, and a bunch of other hooey like that. What it all boils down to is a bunch of cops (led by David Carradine and Richard "Shaft" Roundtree) getting out the big guns to bring down the big "Q" before it's too late!
Anyone else out there think it's a bunch of B.S. that a huge prehistoric bird could live and feed in New York unnoticed? Normally I'd say this is just an isolated incident, but years later we'd see the same thing happen with the big-budget remake of Godzilla. Look, I can see a huge bird or dinosaur hiding in, oh…say the Appalachians, or maybe even the Rockies. But I just don't buy that these creatures can duck and find cover among ten billion citizens in the Big Apple.
But, this may just be me being petty. Q: The Winged Serpent depends on viewers suspending their disbelief for an hour and a half and just going with the oddly strange flow. Q: The Winged Serpent is an entertaining film, and nothing more. If there is a social or environmental message packed inside it's completely lost among the grisly dead bodies and gunfire surrounding the movie. Q: The Winged Serpent gets an even bigger boost by sporting performers that should be above this kind of material. Michael Moriarty (of TV's Law & Order) is actually very good as Quinn, an almost retarded man who is sometimes irritating but always funny to watch. David Carradine is low-key as a cop who just wants to find the beast and kill it, and then there's Richard Roundtree (of Shaft fame) who grumbles most of his lines like he's passing a kidney stone.
The whole shebang is goofy, but at least Cohen (who not only directed but also produced and wrote the script) keeps the pace moving rather briskly. Generally it's all a bunch of sugar coated bologna; the effects are cheap, the music overly dramatic, and the ideas a bit far fetched. Ultimately your enjoyment of Q: The Winged Serpent will be based on your love of B-movies and stop motion films like Clash Of The Titans and Jason And The Argonauts. Q: The Winged Serpent never misses a moment to have the beast flying or climbing via stop-motion animation. Even some of the cops thrown off the building are done by this process. There are lots of shots that look fuzzy or soft because of the use of mattes, and overall the serpent looks like he was sculpted out of Play-Doh. I'm not sure, but he may even have been used years later as an extra in The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Once again, quibbles. Overall Q: The Winged Serpent is turn-off-your-brain entertainment, a mindless romp into the land of cheesy monster movies. Cohen may not be a perfectionist, but at least the guy knows how to make a movie that incorporates a diamond heist, a giant dragon, and an attacking kite in the same movie. Kudos to you, Mr. Cohen!
Q: The Winged Serpent is presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. This film is an early Anchor Bay title and as such isn't given very special treatment. The transfer for Q: The Winged Serpent is good, but certainly not great. There was a bit of edge enhancement spotted, and overall the image tended to have some grain and scratches throughout. While this isn't a horrible transfer by any means, it's not all that great either.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo and is actually fairly weak. I had a hard time hearing some of the dialogue between the characters. It was almost as if the effects and the music were mixed correctly, yet the dialogue was very lacking. On the opposite end, the Foley work is great, utilizing footstep sounds all over the place, and very loudly at that. A mediocre soundtrack at best.
And what's the lucky number of supplements Anchor Bay has thrown on this disc?
Sad to say, the only way I can really recommend Q: The Winged Serpent as a purchase is if you are a HUGE fan of the film. Otherwise this title isn't worth the price seeing as it's not enhanced for 16x9 TVs and includes nada in the supplement department. Q: The Winged Serpent is worth a rental when you have absolutely nothing else to do on a Friday night (and it may help to have a six pack around as well).
Q: The Winged Serpent is free to go, but Anchor Bay is slapped with a fine for below passing work on this title.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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