Director Larry Cohen is one of several horror filmmakers during the 1970s and 1980s who created intelligent, well-acted horror films that developed sizable cult followings via videotape and frequent cable showings. One of his more interesting films is Q THE WINGED SERPENT. Released on DVD previously by Anchor Bay, Blue Underground has revisited the title, providing a brand-new transfer, a number of improved audio tracks, and an impressive batch of extras to re-evaluate this fun little flick.
A series of bizarre murders are plaguing New York City: Sergeant Powell (Richard Roundtree, SHAFT himself) is investigating a number of corpses found missing their skin and other body parts, and Detective Shepard (David Carradine) handles the discovery of various corpses missing their hearts, torn out in ritualistic fashion. Meanwhile, smalltime crook Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty) has botched a jewelry robbery and while hiding out in the Chrysler Building, stumbles upon a giant nest in the tower populated by bloody skeletons and a couple of eggs...what is the secret behind this nest and the murders connected to it?
Q is, simply put, a very entertaining low-budget horror film. Director Larry Cohen penned a script filled with interesting characters, witty dialogue, touches of dark humor, and well-shot monster attacks, all located in the irresistible modern metropolis of New York City, and like many of his other works, allows the game cast to carry the film. Every cast member is excellent, which is unusual for big-name casts in low-budget horror films. Michael Moriarty receives the majority of the rave reviews for his incredibly manic performance as Jimmy Quinn, the power-hungry criminal, and deservedly so. Better-known for his reserved role on TV's "Law and Order," Moriarty pulls out all the stops here and proves his mettle as a dramatic actor. Not to be pushed aside are Candy Clark as his long-suffering girlfriend (looking an awful lot like Renee Zellweger here) and Richard Roundtree as the tough-as-nails cop giving . Hell, even the usually monotone David Carradine seems to be having the time of his life as Shepard, the dedicated cop who puts the two biggest murder cases of the city together to uncover the truth. He has some of the best dialogue in the film, joking as he shoots down a murderous cult member and humoring Moriarty as he rambles an improbable plan to capture the serpent. Even when the monster isn't on-screen, the audience is still kept interested in the lives of these people, thanks to the ensemble cast. Essentially a throwback to the giant monster movies of the 1950s, the film faithfully reconstructs those classics with a maximum of dialogue (all of it good) and a smattering of brief but cool peeks at the monster, which resides in a typical shadowy, atmospheric habitat. The final showdown between Q and the SWAT team in the tower recalls the original KING KONG, with the winged serpent snatching riflemen with its beak and tossing them to their deaths. The special effects are a mixed bag, ranging from impressive stop-motion to very unconvincing model feet and wings, but it's all part of the fun Cohen has creating a modern-day monster movie.
I can't compare Blue Underground's transfer to that of the Anchor Bay disc, but the video quality here is incredibly satisfying! Letterboxed at 1.85:1 with anamorphic enhancement, colors are sharp and vibrant, with very few instances of grain. Blacks are deep and the film looks far more professional than its low budget should have allowed, bright, clear, and very pleasing. A number of audio options include a 6.1 DTS track, a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround mix, a 2.0 Dolby Surround mix, and the original mono track. Of the tracks, only the mono doesn't do the movie justice, but the 6.1 track is the best of the quartet.
The star extra of the disc is the brand-new audio commentary by Larry Cohen moderated by Bill Lustig. Cohen starts the commentary off quickly, discussing how he began the film (he was fired from: I, THE JURY) and never lets up from there, with stories about the production woes, tales of the cast and crew, and the trials of creating a low-budget film. One of the strangest things you'll ever hear on a commentary: Larry Cohen's "Moriarty Song"! Rather than a theatrical trailer, a well-made teaser is included, merely allowing a narrator to proclaim "Its name is Quetzalcoatl. Just call it Q. That's all you'll have time to say...before it tears you apart!" Remember: Q IS COMING! An exhaustive poster and stills gallery includes posters from around the world (some of these are just gorgeous!), including a promo apologizing to New York for scaring them (!), publicity stills, behind-the-scenes photos, and video sleeves. Dennis Daniel's Larry Cohen bio, which appears on all three Blue Underground Larry Cohen discs, is very informative, utilizing interview quotes from Cohen and covering his career from college through today (he wrote PHONE BOOTH?!). And Blue Underground has once again included a superb DVD-ROM extra that will please many fans of the film. "Q Memorabilia" is a series of extra odds and ends viewed through Adobe Acrobat that completists will go gaga for! Starting off with a fake newspaper headline and article about the winged serpent, the compilation includes news clippings discussing the shooting of the film (and how New York City residents were scared to death by realistic machine gun fire during production!), biographies of the actors and Cohen, a very lengthy synopsis and discussion of certain sequences and character motivations, and even MORE full-length articles discussing the film's production and behind-the-scenes interviews with Cohen, Michael Moriarty and David Carradine.
Blue Underground has produced an excellent package to service an underrated genre classic, created by an underrated genre master. The curious and wary should dive right into this disc, it's a rollercoaster ride well worth taking! Q IS COMING! (Casey Scott)
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