Review: Q: The Winged Serpent


Pre-production for the movie lasted just one week. The film was conceived after Larry Cohen was fired from a big budget film shooting in New York. Cohen, determined not to waste the hotel room he paid for, hired the actors and prepared a shooting script within six days.


The movie Larry Cohen was fired from was I, the Jury. It costed eight times as much as Q: The Winged Serpent, but Q: The Winged Serpent only made one quarter as much at the box office.


The budget for Q: The Winged Serpent was estimated around $1,200,000.


The movie was released October 29, 1982 and made approximately $255,000 at the box office due to being given a limited release.


Bruce Willis showed interest in playing the role as Detective Shepard, but Larry Cohen turned him down as his name was not known at the time and the role was given to David Carradine. Bruce later met up with Larry again when Moonlighting was a big hit.

REVIEW:


Detective Shepard and Sgt. Powell investigate a strange case of ritualistic murders while an ancient Aztec god terrorizes New York City.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Another year where we celebrate a day of thanks with a big parade, carving large turkeys, and rioting shopping malls on Black Friday just like the pilgrims intended. But what happens when the turkey finally decides to strike back? The answer is that it will be you who would be carved instead.


Q: The Winged Serpent was a low budget monster movie that was cooked up sort of last minute after director, Larry Cohen, was fired from filming I, the Jury. After being fired, Cohen decided to use up all his time in New York City by making his own movie instead of just packing up and leaving early. The movie had a limited theater release which lead to not being able to make back the movie's budget money. The critical reception back then was not very positive with Michael Moriarty's performance being the only good thing coming from the movie. To me, I find this movie sort of underrated.


Richard Roundtree (left) and David Carradine (Right)

Q: The Winged Serpent is no masterpiece by any means. It isn't your usual monster flick about a giant monster rampages through the city. Most of the movie is more of a mystery movie about a string of ritualistic murders that Detective Shepard (played by David Carradine) and Sgt. Powell (played by Richard Roundtree) investigate. There is even this subplot with Michael Moriarty who plays the role of Jimmy Quinn. Jimmy is connected with a gang that wants him to pull a robbery at a jewelry store, but he is also wanting to make a fresh start on making it on his own as a pianist, which doesn't fare well for both jobs. After losing the briefcase from being run over by a taxi cab, Jimmy makes a run for it to the top of the Empire State Building where the movie reveals the location of Quetzalcoatl's nest. The movie's story is actually decent and I didn't find it as trash or rubbish as others made it out to be. I only have two complaints with the story. My first complaint is the reveal of the murderer was underwhelming as it was a random person rather than somebody who played a major role in the film. It tried to subvert my expectations and it was done sort of sloppy. My second complaint is that the movie ended on a cliffhanger where the movie pans over to an abandoned building where another nest was made and the egg hatches. Ending a movie on a cliffhanger is usually seen as a cinema sin unless a sequel is guaranteed. It actually reminded me of how GODZILLA (98) ended the exact same way with an egg hatching and then no movie sequel in sight. Movies should never end on a cliffhanger unless a sequel is a guarantee.


Michael Moriarty as Jimmy Quinn discovering Q's nest inside the Empire State Building

Performance by David Carradine and Richard Roundtree is about average at best. It is not that I didn't like they're acting, but the story didn't have anything to make me care enough for the characters. It just makes them look like as though investigating a monster attack and sacrificial murders are just another day in the office...Well, I guess at the time after King Kong went on a rampage in New York City twice it would not be as surprising to these people that another monster would attack the city. Michael Moriarty is actually the best actor in the whole movie. He is always terrified that he could be killed at any time. His character even has a greedy side when it was finally time for Jimmy to confess his crimes and the location of the monster's nest. He wanted everything and when the deal was off when Quetzalcoatl never arrived at the nest he gets so frustrated that he couldn't curse properly. Moriarty's character is just more interesting to watch.


Quetzalcoatl getting the best view of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

When it comes to the star monster, the movie goes straight to the point. Quetzalcoatl appears within the first few minutes of the movie beheading a window washer. This leads into the main story with Detective Shepard and Sgt. Powell beginning their investigation. For the first half of the movie, the monster only appears with close up shots. The movie doesn't show the full monster until 44 minutes into the film. For a monster design, it could've looked better if there were feathers or other details. When it is animated with stop motion effects it really looks like Ray Harryhausen or Willis O'Brien that did the animation. The ones that designed and animated the monster was Randall William Cook and David Allen. Randall William Cook is mostly known for his special effects work in the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies, but David Allen is the one that would bring Quetzalcoatl and other monsters to life with stop motion effects in movies like Ghostbusters II, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and Prehysteria! as well as the Puppet Master series and the Demonic Toys series. Quetzalcoatl looks pretty good in motion, but more details could have been added to make it stand out more.

FINAL THOUGHTS:


Q: The Winged Serpent is an underrated monster movie that is about average at best. The story is actually decent with the ending being the only draw back. Performances by David Carradine and Richard Roundtree are about average, but Michael Moriarty really makes this movie interesting to watch. The design of the monster could have been better, yet the stop motion effects artist, David Allen, did a pretty good job bringing the monster to life. It is definitely a movie that monster movie fans should give a watch.


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