MOVIE REVIEW: Q, The Winged Serpent (US, 1982)

There’s an old (well, not *that* old, but old enough) movie trivia game known as “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. Basically, it attempts to demonstrate that no actor is more than six co-star links away from Kevin Bacon, thus making him the Center of the Hollywood Universe – or something. It’s become a cliche now, to the point where one can make fun of it knowing that people will get the reference.

But if you’ve somehow never come across it, or want to impress your friends with your movie trivia wizardry, the key is to remember the movies with unusual pairings in the cast. Jack Nicholson and Boris Karloff. William Shatner and Judy Garland. David Carradine and Richard Roundtree…

That last one is the subject of this review. In Q, Detective Shepard (Carradine) and Sgt. Powell (Roundtree) are NYC police officers who find themselves investigating the decapitation of a window washer. The real puzzle is that the victim was at work on an upper story of the Chrysler Building at the time. If that wasn’t bizarre enough, they also are dealing with a couple of cases of what looks like ritual human sacrifice.

Shepard’s investigation of the latter leads him to information that the “sacrifices” are likely to be part of a sort of summoning ritual for the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. This fits, since there have also been sightings of a flying lizard creature over Manhattan – one that fits the description of Quetzalcoatl, and might also be responsible for the decapitation and other killings of people on rooftops.

If only they could find the creature’s nest…. As it happens, small-time hoodlum Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty) has stumbled across that information. He’ll be happy to give it to the NYPD, but not unless they pay him first….

For a medium-low budget giant monster movie, producer Larry Cohen has done pretty well. The cast is good, the pacing is brisk – the movie takes place over just two days and the shots to mark transitions between scenes are dizzying flights over Manhattan – and everything comes together nicely.

The big question in any giant monster movie is, of course, how does the monster look? Well, Q himself is realized through stop-motion animation and a giant head prop. As with a lot of animation of this sort, it works best the less it is seen. Not everyone can be Ray Harryhausen. For most of the movie, Q is seen in quick flybys that don’t really need a lot of effects work. Closeup shots betray the skimpiness of the budget, and the final scene of Q’s death agony (you didn’t think it would survive, did you?) are rather awkward.

In the end, it’s a reasonably decent movie for a Saturday afternoon. The gore isn’t really gory and there’s no obscene language. Only some gratuitous nudity in one scene of a topless sunbather on a rooftop keeps this from being safe for younger audiences. Oh well, you can’t have everything.

By the way, if you’re wondering….

Early in his career, Jack Nicholson worked with Roger Corman in some of the latter’s horror movies. In “The Raven” (1963), he appeared with Karloff, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre.

Amidst the stellar cast of “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961), not only do you find Spencer Tracy, Maximillian Schell, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, and Judy Garland, but Capt. Kirk appears as legal assistant Capt. Harrison Byers…..

One thought on “MOVIE REVIEW: Q, The Winged Serpent (US, 1982)

  1. You mentioned The Raven at the end of the review. We have it on DVD, and it gets played virtually every year around Halloween. Lots of fun with that cast running around.



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