Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Q THE WINGED SERPENT (1982)


Release Date: August 27th 2013 
Region Code: A NTSC
Duration: 92 Minutes 
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Laarry Cohen
Cast: Michael Moriarty, Candy Clark, David Carradine, Richard Roundtree
Tagline: It's Name is Quetzalcoatl.... Just Call it "Q"... That's All You'll Have Time to Say Before it Tears You Apart!

A pair of seasoned cops, Sergeant Powell (Richard Roundtree, Shaft) and Detective Shepard (David Carradine, Kill Bill Vol. 2),  investigate a series of strange murders in New York City. The city is plagued by gory roof-top dismemberment, at the same time a ritually skinned corpse is found in a hotel room, something very strange is going on in Lower Manhattan, including sightings of a giant winged serpent!

Thrown into the mayhem is a quirky small time crook named Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty, The Stuff) who quite by accident stumbles upon the nest of the voracious winged terror in the spire of the Chrysler Building. When Quinn is brought into police headquarters for questioning in relation to a botched jewelry heist he plays the only card he has available, the whereabouts of the beast's nest. Quinn demands not just leniency for his crimes but squeezes a million dollar payday from the city, much to the duress of the Mayor's office and the cops. 

Q is a very simple creature feature with a straight-forward plot and some great character drive drama, it's not rocket science, it's a b-movie science-fiction thriller. While the creature effects are dated in a schlocky sorta way they are nonetheless fantastic and super enjoyable, it's the best sort of low-budget spectacle. If you love vintage stop-motion creature effects prepare to blow a load in your pants, this is a riot. The special effects here are a mixed bag of b-movie awesomeness with some great stop-motion, some not-so-great giant claws grasping a woman from out of a roof-top pool and some poorly matted effects, it's not all high caliber movie magic but it's definitely low-rent entertainment, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

What's so damn enjoyable, and what is typical of Larry Cohen's low-budget features, are the great cast of gritty and neurotic New York City characters, none more so than the superbly unhinged and nuanced performance from Law and Order's Michael Moriarty who steals the film from both beast and co-star, definitely my favorite Moriarty performance. I felt a great deal of  sympathy for his long suffering girlfriend (Candy Clark, The Blob) who just wanted so much to see the good inside of him, but in the end he's just a low-life hood. 

Now the departed David Carradine was an actor with a long pedigree of b-movie credits most of which I've never much cared for, but with Q he gives a great performance as the detective who manages to connect the dots, linking the appearance of the winged serpent Quetzalcoatl with the ritual human sacrifices, plus we have Shaft's Richard Roundtree as his no-nonsense partner, the film has a great cast.  

Giant winged creature, Aztec ritual human sacrifice, a dark comedy laced with some awesome characters, fun dialogue and shoe-string budget special effects. It all adds up to a genuinely entertaining slice of drive-in cinema, if you have love for  The Crater Lake Monster (1977) this one is right up your alley. 

Blu-ray: Back in 2003 Blue Underground Larry Cohen's drive-in classic a very nice DVD release, 10 years later Shout! Factory continue to celebrate b-movie monster romp with a hi-def Blu-ray presented in 1080p widescreen (1.78:1) with an MPEG-4 AVC encode. Q - The Winged Serpent has never looked better! It's not the most eye-popping hi-def you've ever witnessed, there's minor print damage, grain and dirt evident throughout, it's not gonna knock your socks off but the 1080p upgrade is very nice, fans will be quite pleased. The single audio option is English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0  which delivers dialogue and effects cleanly, plus the Robert O. Ragland (Grizzly) score comes through strong, it's a fun soundtrack.

Not a lot of extras on the disc, the main feature being a brand new audio commentary from director Larry Cohen and it's a winner, Cohen's a fascinating filmmaker, his oeuvre from the 70's and 80's is loaded with fantastic cult and b-movie gems and Q is one of his finest moments in my opinion. He fondly recalls filming the creature feature in New York City in the 80's, he heaps praise on actor Michael Moriarty and paints a picture of David Carradine's career both before and after the feature. The commentary starts off with a fun anecdote about the first screening of the film and how patrons fled the cinema as soon as the name of American Pictures International impresario Samuel Z. Arkoff's appeared on screen, now that's quite a reputation. Cohen keeps it interesting for the entirety of the film, an essential commentary from one of the great figures of 70's and 80's exploitation cinema. The only additional features are a theatrical trailer (2:32) and a teaser promo (0:30) for the feature. 

Now, the eternal question is to double-dip or not, if you own the Blue Underground disc you may not wanna trade-in that one quite yet, for starters the DVD has a DTS-ES 6.1 surround audio and there's a different Larry Cohen audio commentary moderated by filmmaker Blue Underground's William Lustig (Maniac, Maniac Cop) that you might wanna hang on to. I'm a fan of Cohen's films and I think its worth the double-dip, just keep in mind that unlike a few of the Scream Factory editions we've reviewed which ported the special features from previous DVD editions and added a few new ones, this is just not that definitive an edition, but it's a very nice 1080p presentation just the same and for some, that's quite enough. 

Verdict: Larry Cohen's Q - The Winged Serpent (1982) holds up quite well with some great performances and strong stop-motion effects work, a drive-in cult classic and a fun genre film. If you haven't seen it in a while check it out, definitely an underrated gem of genre cinema. 3.5 Outta 5