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Q: The Winged Serpent
Release Date(s)1982 (August 27, 2013)
Studio(s)Larco Productions (Shout!/Scream Factory)
These days, it seems like just about every filmmaker that ever dabbled in horror, sci-fi or fantasy has a fervent cult following. There are internet shrines devoted to everyone from Roger Corman, William Castle and Terence Fisher to Wes Craven, John Carpenter and Joe Dante. But one name is too frequently overlooked and not given the respect he deserves. That name is Larry Cohen, the man responsible for some of the most idiosyncratic and entertaining genre pictures of the 70s and 80s. Movies like It’s Alive, God Told Me To and The Stuff make the most of their low budgets and combine horror, satire and often surprisingly well-rounded characters to create genuine cult classics that seem to get better with age. Cohen’s 1982 monster movie Q is one of his best.
Michael Moriarty stars as Jimmy Quinn, a small-time loser trying (albeit not very hard) to make good. He agrees to be the wheelman for a diamond heist but the job goes bad. Quinn runs off with the loot, which he promptly loses, then makes his way to the top of the Chrysler Building to hide out. He discovers a dead body, its flesh torn away from the bones, and a large nest with an enormous egg. Meanwhile, cops David Carradine and Richard Roundtree are investigating reports of a giant bird terrorizing New York and a series of ritual killings that Carradine suspects are human sacrifices to the ancient Aztec god Quetzalcoatl.
Even if Q was just another monster-on-the-loose movie, it’d probably still be a lot of fun. I’m a sucker for stop-motion animation and the effects that bring Q to winged life are fantastic. But Cohen’s script and Moriarty’s performance elevate Q to another level. Jimmy Quinn is an extremely unlikely hero, a cowardly, opportunistic ex-con who wants to be a jazz pianist. Moriarty, who starred in a number of Cohen’s movies, has a field day as this flawed but somehow still sympathetic character. Carradine sleepwalked through any number of low-budget pictures around this time but here, he’s energized and engaged, especially in scenes opposite Moriarty. Cohen wrote a screenplay that puts real people into an unreal, utterly bizarre situation. Q could have been a forgettable programmer. Instead, it’s a small gem that deserves a wider audience.
Unfortunately, Q also deserves a better Blu-ray release than the one provided by Scream Factory (the Scream Factory logo was accidentally left off the packaging but it is technically part of the Scream lineup). Picture quality is just a hair better than average with some of the effects shots suffering the most. On the comic book grading scale, the image never rises above Very Fine and certainly never approaches Near Mint. The audio isn’t bad but the levels vary from time to time, forcing me to turn up the volume to hear some dialogue. The audio commentary by Larry Cohen is a treat (and different from the commentary on Blue Underground’s DVD) but it’s the only extra here apart from the teaser and the trailer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still surprised and delighted that Q has made it to Blu-ray at all. And to their credit, Scream Factory is not advertising this as a full-on Collector’s Edition. If this release introduces more viewers to the bizarre world of Q, I’ll be quite happy. I just hope that if Scream Factory is able to tackle other Cohen movies like God Told Me To and The Stuff, they lavish them with a bit more care. If anyone deserves A-list treatment from Scream Factory, it’s Larry Cohen.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke
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