Monday, 12 November 2012

Q (1982)

AKA Q: The Winged Serpent.

Writer/director Larry Cohen has given fans a lot of great little movies over the years. Films with no delusions of grandeur that often just manage to punch above their weight thanks, usually, to Cohen's ability to knock out fun scripts that are peppered with cool dialogue.

Q is one of his best, a film all about a giant bird winged serpent that terrorises the good people of New York. Yet it's not really all about the giant, winged beastie because Q is equally a character study, focusing on a small time crook named Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty). Jimmy bemoans his lot in life but it's really all his own fault, as is shown by how unappreciative he is of the love of a good woman (Joan, played by the wonderful Candy Clark). When he's involved in a robbery that doesn't go according to plan, Jimmy has to scarper and he stumbles upon the nest of the titular serpent. When the police (David Carradine and Richard Roundtree, amongst others) get a hold of him and take him in for questioning, Jimmy starts to think that his luck may have finally changed. He hears talk of some flying creature that's been killing people and he knows that he has information that could save the day. At a price.

The main character of this movie is not a nice guy. No, Jimmy Quinn is an ungrateful, cocky, cowardly, crude, pathetic excuse for a human being. Thankfully, the script and Michael Moriarty's performance also make him into someone that you want to keep watching, even if it's only to see if he'll get his comeuppance. The support from Clark, Carradine, Roundtree, James Dixon, Malachy McCourt, Larry Pine, John Capodice, Tony Page and a few others also keeps this movie being watchable and very entertaining from start to finish.

Q himself isn't fully shown very often, for obvious reasons. Thankfully, there's enough aerial photography and trickery with shadows to ensure that viewers never feel shortchanged. Even for the many moments when the beast isn't directly involved, it always seems to be hovering over everything. Which is most appropriate, of course. To be fair, when it does finally come to the "money shots" then it's not all that bad either.

As already mentioned, Cohen crafted another winner with this one - that great character study mixed in with part monster movie and part serial killer film (the beast may have been summoned by someone flaying people alive) - but he really lucked out when he snagged Michael Moriarty for the lead role. The man gives, perhaps, a career-best performance.

I easily recommend this film to lovers of smart b-movie fare. Grab a beverage, put up your feet and spend some time up in the clouds with Quetzalcoatl.


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