Schlockmeister Larry Cohen was in an unusually ambitious mood—or possibly had a little more budget than usual—when he made his loopy take on the giant monster movie with Q (The Winged Serpent) (1982). Oh, I’m not saying that flying monster is exactly believable, but it’s certainly good enough for the movie’s admittedly—and gleefully—trashy purpose. With the typical cockeyed showmanship that’s peculiar to Cohen, we have a story that mixes low-rent gangsters, a secret Aztec murder cult, and commentary on unearned celebrity—all wrapped around the story of a giant and very carnivorous flying serpent (the living embodiment of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl) that nests in (I’m not kidding) the Chrysler Building. Now, being a Larry Cohen picture, can you expect that the monster attacks are joyously gory and manage to involve gratuitously topless pretty girls? Yes, of course, you can. The film offers us standard (at least for a few films) Cohen anti-hero Michael Moriarty as Jimmy Quinn, a catastrophically untalented jazz musician and small-time hood, who happens on the hiding place of the monster while on the run from his mob pals. Naturally, he manages to use the creature to dispose of his cohorts—after which he comes up with a scheme to bilk the city out of some impressive change by leading them to the monster. In typical Cohen style, he manages to recruit a better-than-average cast by availing himself of folks whose careers aren’t exactly in full bloom at the time—Candy Clark, David Carradine, Richard Roundtree—and actually gives them something fairly decent to do. Cheesy and a little bit sleazy—just the way a 1980s Larry Cohen picture should be.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Q (The Winged Serpent) on Thursday, March 22, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.