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Q (1982)

DVD Cover (Blue Underground)
Director:
Larry Cohen Larry Cohen
Starring:
Michael Moriarty Michael Moriarty
Candy Clark Candy Clark
David Carradine David Carradine
Richard Roundtree Richard Roundtree
James Dixon James Dixon

5.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres / Traits: Creature Film, Detective Film, Horror, Dragons, Kaiju
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Review by Chad
Added: March 10, 2005
Modern day New York, aka 1982. Reports of a gigantic bird-serpent flying across the city have been pouring in, and eyewitnesses swear that they saw this bird carry off humans. The police, led up by Detective Shepard (David Carradine) and Sgt. Powell (Richard Roundtree) believe the public to an extent... after all, there are numerous decapitated and disfigured bodies popping up around town. But a gigantic bird? Surely, these civilians must be on crack. Our bumbling officers of the law set out to get to the bottom of this mystery, and their research leads them to find out that this bird-serpent monstrosity is eerily similar to the Aztec God Quetzlcoatl... but what really boggles the mind is that some of the murders (those bodies that weren't eaten) were done so in a way that resembles the ancient Aztec sacrificial rituals. Could there be a connection, or is this just some random flying bird-serpent?

Meanwhile, small-time crook Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty) is getting involved with what appears to be the Mafia to set up a plan for robbing a local diamond store. Quinn agrees to be the driver for the job, but refuses to go in and help with the actual heist. This arrangement is agreed to, and Jimmy drives two of the robbers over to the store. At this point, the plans change... one of the robbers puts the gun to Jimmy's head and forces him to come inside and get his hands dirty. This leads to the two crooks getting caught in the act, while Jimmy manages to escape with seventy-thousand dollars worth of diamonds. However, his good luck doesn't last for long, as a taxi nearly runs him over as he's running down the street, causing him to drop and lose the bag containing the diamonds. He goes to the crime bosses office inside a huge skyscraper known as the Chrysler Building, only to find that the boss is out and the security guard wants to lock him up. Jimmy manages to escape up onto the roof, where he discovers a rather large nest with an even larger egg inside it. When he returns home to his girlfriend Joan (Candy Clark), he tells her of the days events before falling asleep. He is awakened a short time later with Joan gone and two guys from the mafia pounding on his door, who demand that he turn over the diamonds. Of course, our hero doesn't have the diamonds, but the hoods don't believe his story and are about to execute him over it. This leads to the brilliant plan of Jimmy telling them that the bag containing the diamonds is up in the skyscraper, right where he found the nest... of course, the mama bird is waiting for the two criminals and makes a nice meal out of them. Now feeling cocky about the whole situation, Jimmy goes to exit the building, where he finds the cops waiting for him. It seems that they caught up to him after his foiled robbery attempt, and take him in for questioning. This leads him to have to make a choice on whether to tell them about the bird and take all the credit for its discovery, or do things his way.

Here we have two separate storylines that end up coming together to form the center of the main storyline to the movie. In print, it sounds pretty damned nice... but the execution of things in this film fell a bit flat. The problem isn't so much the titular monster, or even the effects used for said beast... it's the lack of monster that hurts things the most. Most of the movie consists of the coppers discussing the lead on the Aztec murders, or talking with each other about the bird, or talking with Jimmy about the bird, or making deals, or... suffice it to say, the action-to-dialog ratio is severely disproportionate. The movie itself is an homage to the fifties style of monster movies, but it lacks in the actual monster aspect of the genre. That's not to say that the monster is non-existent, as it does get a couple of nicely done scenes... decapitations and picking every last bit of flesh off a corpse are its specialty, and these were quite pleasant to witness. It just would have been nice if the monster had racked up more than a handful of kills, or had a bit more time to terrorize the city.

The effects used here was a bit of a mixed bag. The monster itself looked excellent, especially considering that this movie was released twenty-three years ago. They used stop-motion techniques to bring it to life, and did an all-around excellent job with it. The only problem with the monster was the scenes in which it had to fly over the city or cling to the side of a building. These scenes placed the monster on top of a screen, upon which the city backdrop was placed. This effect came off quite awfully, and looked horridly fake. This didn't hurt the overall movie, however, as even with that fault, I'd have happily welcomed some more monster action. Also, it made the movie feel more like those fifties drive-in monster movies that were clearly the inspiration for this title, so it worked out in the end.

Michael Moriarty, who would go on to star in another Larry Cohen film known as "The Stuff", once again does an excellent job with a lead role. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance in the aforementioned The Stuff, so seeing him play out the same general type of character was a welcome treat for myself. His line-delivery and stage presence is extremely good, so it's no wonder that Cohen gave him two nearly back-to-back starring roles in his films. The man is truly underrated in the movie industry, which is a crying shame. David Carradine and Richard Roundtree, the other main eventers found here, play your typical New York cop roles. They yell a lot, they're tough, and the characters have been done to death in countless films. The two actors do a decent enough job with the roles, but they don't really bring much in the way of originality to the characters either.

While not a flat-out bad film, it certainly was a bit disappointing. The monster aspect of the movie was severely lacking, resulting in long stretches of scenes in which we find either boring chit-chat or some major padding of the scenes to hit that ninety minute mark. Overall, it's a decent film, but don't go out of your way to find a copy unless you're extremely big on those fifties monster films. 4/10.
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