Q: The Winged Serpent

I should add a fair warning that I’ve fallen down a Joe Bob Briggs rabbit hole so there will be a few posts about drive-in quality movies on here for a while.

As a member of the drive-in generation, I am awash with nostalgia listening to JBB rhapsodize over the movies we used to pile in to see on Saturday night.

The difference between watching them then and watching them now is the quality of the prints.

Seeing this movie at a the Manassas Drive-In on Centreville Road, the print would have arrived in a terrible condition at the ass end of a long circuit of first run, second run, and major market drive-in theaters. I remember these movies as being grainy and sometimes incoherent due to missing scenes.

But the crystal clear HDR transfers we get of these old movies (when made from a pristine print and cleaned up with NASA technology) you can see how gorgeous they are. And ridiculous. Let’s be honest, mostly ridiculous. Especially when it comes to this movie.

The grainy, degraded print from the 1970s big screen would have covered a plethora of faults in the “Special Effects” for Q.

Conceived and written in six days and then shot in two weeks, “Larry Cohen’s Masterpiece” is one of the strangest movies ever made. The star, Michael Moriarty appears to be in one movie, a John Cassavetes movie to be precise, while David Carradine & Richard Roundtree don’t seem to know who their characters are or what they’re doing in this ridiculous story.

Seriously, if you lifted Jimmy’s (Michael Moriarty) story from this movie and added a typical 1970s downbeat ending, he could have won awards for his performance.

There’s also a superfluous story line about a college professor who flays people alive to summon the giant bird. This subplot takes up fully a third of the movie just to explain why the giant bird attacked New York City, a question that wasn’t asked (no one cares) and could have been answered with a line of dialogue.

They shot Q so fast they didn’t have time to work with a special effects team to create the titular bird so the SFX were added after shooting was completed. NOT how that is supposes to work and you can see why in the final act.

The ending, and I cannot stress this enough, should only be watched late at night while high.

But it’s photographed well and is quickly paced. At times, especially when Moriarty is on screen, it’s actually compelling. Some of the dialogue is good, again when it’s coming from Moriarty, and there’s always the completist glow of finally having seen the movie so many people in the horror community talk about.

Personally, I thought it was a hoot, but it’s far from Larry Cohen’s Masterpiece. That title has to be reserved for his episode of Masters of Horror, “Pick Me Up”. Also starring Moriarty.

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