You know, thinking back on things, Denis Leary might have been right. During his “No Cure For Cancer” stand-up, one of his bits focused briefly on NyQuil and it’s use of a giant “Q” on the label to get people’s attention. Well, back in the video store days, that definitely worked with today’s movie, although it could also have been the winged monster holding a half naked woman on top of the Chrysler Building. Either way, I am starting off a new letter so let’s dive right into today’s movie, Q: The Winged Serpent.
The plot: When a window washer high up on the Empire State Building is decapitated, Detective Shepard and Sergeant Powell are trying to figure out how it could have happened and what happened to the head. Meanwhile, Jimmy Quinn is attending a meeting with some crooks planning a jewel heist and want him to serve as the wheel man for the job. Sometime later, Powell is called to the scene of a murder where the victim had all of the skin removed. On a high-rise rooftop, a woman goes sunbathing topless when something swoops down and grabs her then flies away, showering the people on the streets below with blood as it passes. Jimmy goes to a bar and attempts to get a job playing the piano as Shepard walks in to get a drink but the bartender doesn’t care for Jimmy’s singing and puts money in the jukebox to showcase the point. Jimmy winds up doing the heist but instead of waiting in the car, the two men robbing the place force him to come with them. Inside the store, shots are heard and Jimmy walks out alone carrying a suitcase but since he no longer has the car keys, he starts walking away. After going a few blocks, he is clipped by a cab sending the suitcase goes flying down the street and Jimmy is forced to limp away without it. Jimmy heads to a nearby phone and calls a lawyer friend of his, then heads towards the Chrysler Building to meet with him. When he can’t get into his friend’s office and security is called on him, Jimmy heads towards the roof of the building to avoid them and discovers a large nest with a giant egg hidden in the roof as well as a skeleton and quickly leaves the building. As a construction crew goes to lunch, one of the workers stays behind to look for his lunch pail and is grabbed by the flying creature, with the man’s leg eventually falling to the ground below. Meanwhile, Shepard is talking to a historian about the murder, who suggest it’s similarities to a ritual sacrifice used by the Aztecs and Shepard borrows some books to learn more about the practice. Meanwhile, Jimmy goes to his girlfriend’s apartment and tells her what happened and the two argue about what he should do. When another body turns up with it’s heart cut out, and a second construction worker is killed by a flying creature, Shepard starts to give some credence to the thought that there might be something to the idea that someone is trying to summon the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. The other two men that planned the heist go looking for Jimmy and catch up to him after he runs from the apartment. Asking where the case is, Jimmy takes them to the Chrysler Building and tricks them into going to the roof, where the creature kills them both. Jimmy leaves and returns to his apartment only to be picked up by Police and taken to the station. Overhearing Shepard and Powell talking to their Captain about another person being killed by a giant flying creature, Jimmy decides to cash in on his knowledge to get something for himself. Jimmy comes up with some unreasonable demands and as the papers are being written up, Shepard takes Jimmy to get some coffee and tries to trick him into revealing where the creature can be found but Jimmy stops talking when Powell shows up. After the paperwork is signed, Jimmy lads Shepard to the Chrysler building and they find the nest with the egg, which starts to hatch and they kill the baby creature but when there is no sign of the mother, Shepard tells Jimmy that he probably won’t be getting the money. Meanwhile, Powell and some other cops follow the museum curator and another person to an old warehouse, believing them to be responsible for the ritualistic killings. When they go to arrest them, they find the curator in the stages of being sacrificed and when the curator tries to stop the police, he is shot but the masked man escapes. As Powell heads to the roof to try and catch him, he is killed by Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl flies back to the Chrysler building, where Shepard and some other police officers are waiting for it and eventually manage to kill it. Jimmy returns to his girlfriend’s apartment and she kicks him out after he begins trashing it. After checking into a motel, Jimmy is assaulted by the masked man, who deems Jimmy a traitor that resulted in the death of Quetzalcoatl but Shepard shows up and manages to kill him. Shepard tells Jimmy to try and patch things up with his girlfriend and leaves, unaware that another egg is hatching at an unfinished construction site.
Q: The Winged Serpent met with mostly positive reviews from the critics, holding a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, many critics praised the performance of Michael Moriarty as Jimmy Quinn. Roger Ebert tells a story about when movie reviewer Rex Reed met Samuel Z Arkoff, the producer of the movie, and told him, “What a surprise! All that dreck—and right in the middle of it, a great Method performance by Michael Moriarty!”, Arkoff replied “The dreck was my idea.” The movie only received a limited release in the US, resulting in it only recouping $255,000 back from it’s $1.1 million budget.
A little confusing at times, but this was a pretty decent movie. Michael Moriarty (Jimmy) definitely stole the show while David Carradine (Shepard) seemed to treat his role as a joke and Richard Roundtree (Powell) was his usual character self. The story was a little confusing, jumping back and forth between three different sub-plots, and while the jewel heist and Quetzalcoatl stories did get tied together, they only haphazardly did so with the ritual murders story. The special effects were a mix of being good and being completely cheesy, mostly on the cheesy side but I did think the blood dripping from the sky and nobody able to see what is causing it due to the sun’s angle was a pretty good plot device to keep it. A fun movie that is good for some late night viewing.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5