Q / Winged Serpent, The (1982)

Q / Winged Serpent, The (1982)

“This thing has been prayed back into existence.”

While a pair of detectives (David Carradine and Richard Roundtree) try to solve a series of gory murders around New York City, a petty crook (Michael Moriarty) stumbles upon a mysterious giant egg on top of the Chrysler Building, and attempts to use his knowledge as leverage against the police.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Candy Clark Films
  • David Carradine Films
  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • Larry Cohen Films
  • Michael Moriarty Films
  • Mutant Monsters
  • New York City
  • Thieves and Criminals

Response to Peary’s Review:
In his review of this “cult picture” by writer-director Larry Cohen, Peary describes the bizarre plot as focusing on “an Aztec deity, the giant flying serpent Quetzalcoatl,” which “mysteriously appears above the Manhattan skyscrapers”:

… “descending only long enough to bite off the heads of sunbathers and construction workers” and “has built a secret nest at the top of the Chrysler Building” — all while “a series of ritualistic murders… are taking place all over the city.” When “former junkie Michael Moriarty flees a botched hold-up and somehow winds up at the nest,” “this born loser becomes an opportunist: he will divulge the location of the nest for $1 million plus amnesty.”

Peary argues that the “preposterous, totally confusing story is bolstered somewhat by the offbeat humor in director Larry Cohen’s script, some good location footage and his depiction of the city as character; and by a memorable, weirdly conceived performance by Moriarty” — although Peary believes “he should have saved his interesting neurotic for another picture.”

Peary notes that although the film is “fun for awhile”, it’s “done in by unforgivingly sloppy editing, mediocre special effects, and too many loose ends.” I agree on all counts.

In interviews, Cohen apparently noted that he:

“… once looked at the Chrysler Building and said: ‘That’d be the coolest place to have a nest.’ This single thought was the idea which began the creation of this movie.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t enough of an idea to sustain the film. Fans of Cohen will of course be curious to check it out, but it’s not must-see viewing for all fanatics.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Michael Moriarty as Jimmy Quinn
  • David Carradine as Detective Shepard
  • Good use of location shooting in NYC

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look for its cult status.


One thought on “Q / Winged Serpent, The (1982)

  1. Rewatch (10/18/20). Not must-see – but cult film / monster movie fans will likely have some interest, even if they ultimately find the film less-than-satisfying.

    Typically flawed but ambitious Cohen flick moves in an old-fashioned Godzilla-type direction, with a huge (flying) beast terrorizing NYC. But it doesn’t play out in a particularly organized fashion – throwing in foreign rituals that don’t make a whole lot of sense. I doubt that the film *cares* that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, since its main goal is modern horror.

    This is a film that is particularly frustrating because it does have good scenes in it (along with some dull scenes, in stark contrast to the money-shot action scenes). Most of the B-to-C-list cast members at least try so meet the script on its own level – with Carradine making the largest effort.

    But one even stands above and that is Moriarty. His performance actually improves and becomes more interesting as the film progresses – and that’s not an easy task because, the way his role is written, the actor had to pull out a whole lot of subtext for his psychotic character – and he succeeds to an impressive degree.

    There is an ample amount of effective aerial photography as well.

    A downside is that the latter part of the film is somewhat rushed (it also introduces the means for a sequel). It’s not an outright terrible film overall but it’s certainly clunky.

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