Q the Winged Serpent
Director: Sam Newfield

Director: Larry Cohen

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The Flying Serpent The Flying Serpent (1946), retitled Killer With Wings in a re-edited version, was Producers Releasing Corporation's attempt to make a Universal style horror film.

Although falling short of RKO & no where near the glory days of Universal, it was the PRC's biggest commercial success, such as that may have been.

It has been called a remake of The Devil Bat (1940) though having the characters driving past, near, or around an Aztec pyramid, & calling the devil bat Quetzecoatl, lends it sufficient originality.

If the flopping rubber Devil Bat swinging on a string is the standard of special FX, then The Flying Serpent is comparatively advanced, & is certainly the film's main charm.

The monster is no bigger than a Christmas turkey & in a couple of scenes when it attacks, actors look as though they're wrastlin' a kite or an embrella. Yet there's a distinct no-budget beauty to the small Quetzecoatl zipping through the sky along a clothesline wire flapping its hinged wings, or sitting in its cavern jail cell breathing smoke.

The Flying SerpentGeorge Zucco plays mad archeologist Professor Andrew Forbes, & Zucco lends a certain Karloffian glory to even the least of his films.

In this tale, he has secretly discovered Montezuma's treasure in a hidden cavern temple near a huge Aztec ruin near San Juan, New Mexico, a ruin which of course doesn't exist & it's curious they didn't just pretend they were in Mexico.

The mad professor having gained power over the flying creature turns it loose to kill sundry individuals or no real threat to him but which he perceives as a threat to his scarcely rational plans.

Richard Thorpe (Ralph Lewis), a radio mystery writer, sets out to solve the mystery, & falls for the professor's step-daughter Mary (Hope Kramer) who has no idea her pop's a nutter.

Plot-wise it'll never make a lick of sense, but the idea of the on-the-scene radio mystery program lends it a period interest for radio fans, & it's in general an adorable old film.

Q the Winged SerpentI truly like Q: The Winged Serpent (1982). It had a fabulous cast -- Michael Moriarity, Richard Roundtree, David Carradine -- & a great b-film director who wrote & directed the killer-baby classic It's Alive (1974).

Q has some genuinely good acting. Moriarity brought a level of performance to several horror films that has very rarely matched since the era of Lorre & Karloff -- & the film also had occasionally good imagery.

The wyvern-like Qetzecoatle has definite appeal as a monster design. Though the puppetry is never entirely convincing in & of itself, it's close enough.

To me it doesn't seem to matter that it looks clunky as a stop-motion doll in flight & like a marionette head when nesting -- no more than it matters that the dragon in Disney's Snow White (1937) never stops being a cartoon drawing. The Qetzecoatl evokes something primal, & it becomes convincing because the actors interacting with its existence appear convinced.

Q the Winged SerpentMoriarity plays edgy, twitchy, smart-mouthed Jimmy Quinn, a superb character performance at the center of the film.

He becomes just about the first to realize the Aztec god-monster "Q" is a real creature, & has built her nest in the point of the Chrysler Building in New York city.

While being pursued by crooks who mean him harm, Jimmy leads them a merry chase that ends in the cone of the Chrysler Building. The bravely insane Jimmy Quinn is soon heard laughing hysterically "Eat 'em! Eat 'em!" as the beak of Q crunches his persecutors.

Enter David Carradine as Detective Shepard to investigate inexplicable incidents, who soon learns a Qetzalcoatl is preying upon denizens of New York but can't convince his boss of anything so absurd.

The interchanges between crazy Jimmy who knows where the nest is but wants a million dollars to tell, & frustrated Shepard, are marvelously acted & in every scene they share, both actors are a joy.

Q the Winged SerpentThere's no question but that they are achieving high comedy, but the humor grows so much out of real acting & convincing characters that it remains simultaneously a totally poker-faced sincere horror film.

The Qetzalcoatl also drums up some sympathy in the viewer, as do all truly great monsters from Frankenstein to King Kong & beyond. She is, after all, just a big predatory bird-lizard who wants to raise a family, & sad that she must come to a sorry end, like all big beasts that have an appetite for people.

The surrounding plot of "monster eats people, people hunt down & kill monster" is not the point of this film. It's a "character" piece, & one of Moriarity's greatest performances. It's one of the two best films Larry Cohen ever made. The other is God Told Me To (1976) with a psycho hermaphrodite from space as villain.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

[ Film Home ] - [ Film Reviews Index ]
[ Where to Send DVDs for Review ] - [ Paghat's Giftshop ]