July 15, 2013

Giant Monster Live-Tweet Part 3: Michael Moriarty Upstages Q: THE WINGED SERPENT


When it comes to giant monster movies, it can be tricky to strike the right balance between the humans and the beasties.  Obviously the monsters are what put the asses in the seats, but you've got to have some interesting characters with whom the audience can identify to help drive your story forward.  That being said, if you spend too much time on the people then you run the risk that the audience will get bored waiting for your monster to show up again.

Q: The Winged Serpent (what a title!) runs somewhat afoul of this conundrum, relegating its giant demon lizard to the margins of its story and turning it into a largely unseen menace.  We get almost halfway through the film before we get a good full body shot of of the titular creature; he's so hidden that most of the characters don't even believe Q really exists.  (Note: the longer the characters spend disbelieving the film's premise, the sleepier I get.)  Q spends most of his scenes making isolated attack runs on random, roof-dwelling New Yorkers and it's really not until the last 15 minutes or so that anyone really tries to go toe-to-toe with the dragon. It's a shame because Q (short for the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl) is actually rendered with some pretty groovy stop-motion.  It's always good to leave your audience wanting more, but I actually felt short-changed.

Fortunately the human element is incredibly entertaining in the most batshit insane way possible. David Carradine and Richard Roundtree (Shaft!) are two NYC cops investigating a series of mysterious deaths, including some pretty freaky corpses (one guy gets flayed alive) that show signs of ritual killing. But that pales in comparison to Michael Moriarty as Quinn, an increasingly unhinged small time crook who inadvertently discovers Q's nest atop the Chrysler Building.  As Quinn evades the gangsters that he double crossed after robbing Neil's Diamonds (womp womp) and tries to use his knowledge of Q's hiding spot to extort fame and fortune from the city, Moriarty's performance just gets more and more bonkers, like a young Christopher Walken on bath salts.  It's tremendously entertaining to watch, the kind of performance that we rarely see these days.

Overall Q: The Winged Serpent was a bit of a mixed bag - too light on monster mayhem but still a goofy bit of fun.  This is the kind of movie that begs to be seen in a crowded theater, preferably around midnight and with copious beers close at hand.  

Tweets ahoy!

Footnote: This was the last giant monster screening I was able to fit in before Pacific Rim, but I did get a chance to revisit both Godzilla: Final Wars and the South Korean film The Host, both of which were just as awesome as I remember.   I highly recommend both movies if you have the time and opportunity.  Cloverfield was okay too.

Title: Q: The Winged Serpent
Director: Larry Cohen
Starring: Michael Moriarty, David Carradine, Richard Roundtree, Candy Clark
Year Of Release: 1982
Viewing Method: Netflix DVD

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