FREAKSHOW Q – The Winged Serpent

Join us every Monday, as we look at a cult movie. Our film of the week this time sees a giant flying monster nesting in the Chrysler Building

Larry Cohen
Cast: David Carradine, Michael Moriarty, Richard Roundtree
Available on region one and region two DVD
Watch the trailer here

Q – The Winged Serpent’s director reckons the makers of the American take on Godzilla ripped him off. It’s not really an argument that would stand up in court though, since Q is itself a homage to the classic era of monster movies…

It’s a typically idiosyncratic offering by director Larry Cohen, a revered figure in cult movie circles, who knocked out a bunch of quirky B-movies in the ’70s and ‘80s, including the mutant-baby horror It’s Alive and blaxploitation flick Black Caesar.

In New York, something nasty is swooping down from the sky and biting people’s heads off. Meanwhile, the police are baffled by a series of murders where the victims have been skinned. Turns out that sacrificial killings have brought Quetzalcoatl – an Aztec god – back into existence.

Sounds too goofy for words, right? But Q works because Cohen plays it pretty straight. Guerrilla filming on the streets of NYC helps create a sense of verisimilitude, and the characterisation is both unusual and strong. David Carradine, cast against type as a cop, has some wonderfully sardonic lines (“Did you find that guy’s missing head yet?” “Oh, it’ll turn up…”) Carradine, incidentally, took his role as a favour to Cohen (a war-time buddy), and turned up on day one not having seen the script or even knowing what his role was. This unnerved him so much that after the first scene he threw up in the street!

But the real star is Michael Moriarty as small time punk Jimmy Quinn, who sees an opportunity to make a buck when he stumbles across the monster’s nest. Quinn’s a schmuck, a coward, and a girlfriend-beater, but there’s something endearingly child-like about this goofball loser.

Effects-wise, the CGI Godzilla performs a smack-down on Q’s stopmotion flying lizard, but Cohen’s maverick approach ensures Q is a damn sight more interesting than Roland Emmerich’s big-budget dud.

Ian Berriman, reviews editor of SFX and cult movie nut, has watched Rat Pfink A Boo Boo four or five times, but never seen On The Waterfront. The nutter.

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