Q (1982 film)

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Q – The Winged Serpent
Theatrical release poster by Boris Vallejo
Directed byLarry Cohen
Written byLarry Cohen
Produced by
Edited byArmond Lebowitz
Music byRobert O. Ragland
Distributed byUnited Film Distribution Company
Release date
October 8, 1982 (New York City)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.1 million[1]
Box office$255,000[2]

Q – The Winged Serpent (also known as Q) is a 1982 American monster horror film written, co-produced and directed by Larry Cohen and starring Michael Moriarty, Candy Clark, David Carradine and Richard Roundtree.[3] The film follows a petty swindler (Moriarty) who accidentally intrudes in a case involving a winged deity monster that poses a threat to New York City. He is the only person who has information that can help the police to stop the creature.


The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, a winged, dragon-like lizard, takes up residence in the art-deco spire of the Chrysler Building, with frequent jaunts in the midday sun to devour various helpless New Yorkers on the rooftops. The resulting bloody mess confounds detectives, Shepard and Powell, who are already occupied with a case involving a series of bizarre ritual murders linked to a secret neo-Aztec cult.

Jimmy Quinn, a cheap, paranoid crook who wishes to be a jazz pianist, takes part in a botched diamond heist. Attempting to hide from police after the robbery, he stumbles upon the creature's lair atop the Chrysler building. Quinn abandons his attempts to settle down and leave his life of crime, deciding to extort from the city an enormous amount of money in exchange for directions to the creature's nest, which houses a colossal egg.

Quinn makes a deal with the city, $1 million for the location of the nest. He leads Shepard and a paramilitary assault team to the top of the Chrysler Building where they shoot the egg, killing the baby inside. Because the creature itself was not present in the nest, the city reneges on its offer to Quinn, taking back the $1 million and leaving him broke once again. Later, after killing Powell, the creature comes to the tower. After the showdown, the creature, riddled with bullets, falls onto the streets of Manhattan. Finally, Shepard shoots the Plumed Serpent's crazed priest (who had been committing the ritual murders) as he tries to kill Quinn to resurrect his "god". Ultimately, a second large egg hatches in a different location in the city.



A view of the Chrysler Building from the Empire State Building
A major part of the film's shooting took place in The Chrysler Building

Q – The Winged Serpent was shot on location in and around New York City's Chrysler Building and uses the interior of the building's tower crown as a primary location.[4] Though the owners initially refused to secure the building to the movie's production, they finally relented and agreed after they were offered $18,000 fee.[5] The overall production budget was over $1.1 million.[1] The film's special effects for the flying serpent were done using stop-motion animation by Randall William Cook and David Allen.[6]

According to writer-director Larry Cohen, Michael Moriarty's character Jimmy Quinn was not a failed piano player in the script, but when Cohen discovered Moriarty wrote and played music, he used it: "I wrote the extra scene where he auditions and fails to get the job. After that we just kept building on that".[7]


The film was given a limited release theatrically in the United States by United Film Distribution Company beginning in New York City on October 8, 1982, the same date Twentieth Century-Fox would release I, The Jury. Q would gross approximately $255,000 at the box office.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Q – The Winged Serpent holds a 72% approval rating based on 29 reviews, with an average rating of 6.30/10. The consensus reads: "Q's campy charms may be lost on audiences who want their monsters frightening, but a game cast and lovingly retrograde visual effects give this kaiju romp some majesty."[8]

Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half out of four stars in his original review, commending Moriarty's performance. Ebert relates the anecdote that, when movie reviewer Rex Reed met Q – The Winged Serpent's producer, Samuel Z. Arkoff, Reed told him: "What a surprise! All that dreck—and right in the middle of it, a great Method performance by Michael Moriarty!", while Arkoff replied: "The dreck was my idea."[9] Colin Greenland reviewed Q – The Winged Serpent for Imagine magazine, and stated that "It is not often that a film is enjoyable as a monster movie, a character study and a satire, but Q – The Winged Serpent scores on every one. As well as taking a few swipes at the police, the mass media, and big city politics, Larry Cohen cannot resist poking fun at the innumerable monsters that have gone chomping and stomping among the skyscrapers over the years."[10] Gene Siskel awarded the film three out of four stars.

Film critics and journalists James Marriott and Kim Newman featured Q on their 2006 book The Definitive Guide to the Cinema of Fear. Although they criticized the film's pacing as moving "too fast", they felt that overall was entertaining.[11] In his retrospective review, Chuck Bowen of Slant Magazine gave The Winged Serpent a rating of three out of five stars, praising Shout! Factory's 2013 restoration.[12] In 2019, Screen Rant critic Rocco Thompson cited it as Larry Cohen's sixth essential film of his career.[13]

Home media[edit]

The film was later released on VHS by MCA/Universal Home Video. It was released on DVD by Blue Underground in 2003.[14] Shout! Factory released the film on Blu-ray on August 27, 2013, through their Scream Factory sublabel.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McGilligan, Patrick (2006). Larry Cohen: Manic Energy, Backstory 4: Interviews with Hollywood Screenwriters of the 1970s and 1980s. Uni of California. p. 64.
  2. ^ a b "Q (1982)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Archived from the original on September 22, 2011. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  3. ^ Vorel, Jim (October 17, 2020). "ABCs of Horror: "Q" Is for Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)". Paste. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  4. ^ Hunter, Rob (March 30, 2015). "20 Things we Learned from Larry Cohen's Commentary for Q – The Winged Serpent The Winged Serpent". Film School Rejects. Reject Media, LLC. Archived from the original on September 19, 2015. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  5. ^ Sisson, Jonathan (August 15, 2020). "'Q – The Winged Serpent': An Appreciation". We Are Cult. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  6. ^ Harris, Will (August 27, 2013). "An oral history of the cult classic Q: The Winged Serpent". The Dissolve. Archived from the original on October 10, 2021. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  7. ^ "Larry Cohen interview". THE FLASHBACK FILES. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  8. ^ "Q (1982)". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Fandango. Retrieved February 26, 2022.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1982). "Q Movie Review & Film Summary (1982) - Roger Ebert". rogerebert.com. suntimes.com. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  10. ^ Greenland, Colin (July 1983). "Film Review". Imagine (review). TSR Hobbies (UK), Ltd. (4): 37.
  11. ^ Newman, Kim; Marriott, James (2006). The Definitive Guide to the Cinema of Fear. pp. 184–5. ISBN 978-0233002019.
  12. ^ a b Bowen, Chuck (August 14, 2013). "Review: Larry Cohen's 'Q: The Winged Serpent' on Shout! Factory Blu-ray". Slant Magazine. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  13. ^ Thompson, Rocco (April 17, 2019). "10 Essential Larry Cohen Movies". Screen Rant. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
  14. ^ "Q – The Winged Serpent (DVD)". DVDEmpire.com. Right Ascension, Inc. Archived from the original on November 8, 2011. Retrieved April 16, 2011.

External links[edit]