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Q: The Winged Serpent (Blu-ray Review)

Q-The-Winged-SerpentScream Factory brings us its first giant monster movie in Q: The Winged Serpent.  This one is a little seen (nowadays) monster film starring some popular veteran character actors in David Carradine, Richard Roundtree and Michael Moriarty (and the feature film debut of John Capodice).   The film was well received upon release by critics.  Maybe this new release will help to find itself some newer fans.  I can see it as a  film that some may easily turn their nose nose up at quickly due to its “dated” fx.  But I assure you the book is much better than its cover here.  Its definitely a good rendition of some fun Saturday afternoon matinee kind of fun. 

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Film 

Inside New York’s Chrysler Building hides the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl (Q).  During the hot midday sun, Q flies out and takes human victims.  The bodies keep piling up coinciding with ritual killings the police are investigating.  Q is not visible as he flies right in the bright sun and its not sure if the witnesses are to be believed until a crooked wheelman for hire stumbles upon Q’s nest and offers up the location in exchange for money and freedom.

Q: The Winged Serpent is an entertaining little monster movie that really doesn’t seem to ever want to use its monster.  I joked on Twitter as a I watched calling it “Q: The Winged Cameo” as the god really doesn’t make much of a visible appearance until the very end.  Its not as if they’re totally hiding it from its appearance to be some big surprise, there’s just not many scenes involving Q.  And the police just seem to completely ignore or not care of these obvious signs of the monster.  Its kinda weird as the film seems more interested in focusing on this jewel heist and its players.  Once that ends, it becomes a police interrogation drama trying to break a deal for information.  Finally, Q gets to come front and center.  Strangely, there’s still more movie after that.

The film’s two detectives come in the form of some good casting fun.  One of my favorites, Richard Roundtree, and David Carradine (originally supposed to be Bruce Willis, but apparently Carradine had more “box office draw” at the time) get to play off of each other.  It’s the old “two opposites working for the same side of the law” cliché but its fun to watch these two at it.  David Carradine reminded me a lot of James Franco in this movie.  I guess you’d have to see to believe, but I saw a lot of inflection, mannerisms and facial expressions that seemed like a dead ringer.  Not to be forgotten is the lead of the film, Michael Moriarty.  He gives a really weird, but scene stealing performance.  He owns his character and every frame he’s in.  It’s a bizarre mentally disturbed character but he’s totally consumed in it.

The effect work in the film goes from charmingly dated to pretty impressive.  The work on the god Q is stop motion ranging from good to obviously stop motion.  There’s some instances where clay people are completely obvious.  But to me, that’s part of the fun.  Some shots with Q flying above the building of New York look pretty good still.  The ritual killings, beheadings and such is where the work still holds up.  During the rituals, skin is cut off and people are carved into and it looks really cool.  So, I’d say its almost 50/50.

Q is a weird instance where a monster film doesn’t exploit its monster.  Normally these things are all about that.  This one holds it back until pretty much its time for the final battle.  There are a lot of fun performances in the movie that definitely can make up for its lack of “monster madness”.  Some of the effects still hold up quite well while others make for a fun time capsule experience.  This is definitely a neat little gem that maybe not a lot of people have seen and could have some fun with.

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Video 

Q swoops in the clarity of 1080p MPEG-4 AVC.  The 1.78:1 picture is a bit rough, but features some impressive shots here and there.  The film is soft around the edges and low on the detail.  Its not a bad picture, its just that it looks quite warm all the time.  The skin tones of all Caucasian performers are bright in appearance.   It just gives the impression that its hot out.  One other thing is it’s got that old 70s/early 80s dirty New York look to it too.  So some of this is because of the times not being pretty, too.  The best thing about this picture though is its depth.  Q has got a very good 3 dimensional look to it.  It’s framed quite well.  The depth of apartments and police station rooms is quite impressive.

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Audio 

The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track gives you a nice crisp rendition of heads being chewed off.  This track has a lot of fun and at times feels like a simulated surround.  It does a good job of making sets feel a full 360 degrees with only being stereo.  It does a good job with its distances and playing left to right.  Overall, it’s a good track that suits the feature very well.

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Extras 

The extras on this one are light, but as cult classic as some of these things can be, the resources aren’t always available or no longer exist.  Also getting people back to discuss it can prove challenging as well.  They got the important one though, as the director returns for a new commentary.  Both trailers provided are 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

  • Audio Commentary With Writer/Producer/Director Larry Cohen – The director discusses the quick origin of this film as he was fired of his previous film and turned out preproduction on this one in a short amount of time.  He discuss everything from crafting the film to his surprise of David Carradine’s non-comeback following the Kill Bill movies.
  • Trailer (2:32)
  • Teaser (:33)

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Summary 

Scream Factory gives us a little seen cult classic from the fabled year of 1982.  It’s a solid Saturday matinee kind of film that definitely puts character development over its monster.  Even though the monster is pretty scarce, its 2 cops playing off each other, the lead’s great performance and the gore effects provide solid enough entertainment that you might not even notice the title character is missing for big chunks of time.  The picture quality is good, but could have been better.  The audio track works quite well and the commentary track is quite engaging.  This is a solid pickup for fans and those monster enthusiasts curious about Q.


Q-The-Winged-Serpent-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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