Nearly three decades after the sci-fi monster movie craze of the 1950’s, Larry Cohen, director of such diverse films as God Told Me To, It’s Alive, and Black Caesar made Q, later re-titled Q: The Winged Serpent.

It was a different kind of monster movie from those audiences were accustomed to from years prior, outside of some of the earlier Universal Horror films which were more character driven than the schlock fests of the McCarthy era. A thinking man’s monster movie, it questioned man’s inhumanity to man as much as the struggle against the inhuman beast at large.

Michael Moriarty stars as Jimmy Quinn, a broke musician who can’t find an honest break. Out of desperation, he decides to get in on a jewel heist and things don’t go so well. Meanwhile, the city is plagued by strange deaths, which appear to be freak accidents and general strange goings on: a window washer who is decapitated, several people disappearing out of thin air from the tops of buildings, and one on occasion it seems to rain blood. As fate would have it, Jimmy stumbles upon the nest of a giant flying lizard that is responsible for the destruction and our “bad guy” quickly becomes an asset to the authorities that wanted to put him away.

Moriarty has given some memorable performances in projects ranging from a television production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, opposite Katherine Hepburn, which garnered him two Emmy awards, to Pale Rider, and more recently playing James Dean’s father in the bio-pic James Dean, for which he also won another Emmy. Yet, for some reason, it is his turn here as an inept criminal who makes one bad decision after another that stands out due to its range and unexpected intensity. Candy Clark is fine support as his girlfriend Joan, who is at her wits end as to what to do with him and their relationship. David Carradine and Richard Roundtree play nicely together and against Moriarty in their roles as NYPD detectives assigned to solve the mystery of the killings and reign in Moriarty as he spins out of control.

Q flies onto Blu-ray with a decent image and adequate audio. I would imagine the source material for the print is to blame, as it doesn’t appear to suffer any edge enhancement or DNR, but the movie just looks OK. It’s a step up from what a DVD would give, especially in close ups, but the image is just soft all the way around. There is a single 2.0 audio track and it gets the job done; dialogue is clear and the score comes through loud and clear along with the serpent’s screeching when she’s coming in for the kill.

Sadly, the only bonus features are a trailer and a commentary from Larry Cohen. Luckily he’s a good listen, and starts things off with some funny anecdotes. The fly on the wall, at times gossipy, track never lets up and he’s a charming speaker. It’s just a shame none of the other talent could be corralled to appear along side or in their own track.

Q: The Winged Serpent is a surprisingly clever character study that does a lot improve upon the reputation of the monster movie of the 1950’s, which it emulates in a few key ways, while avoiding most of the traps of the genre. Cohen applies a deft hand with his cast and Michael Moriarty gives one of the best performances of his career as the hapless and unwitting criminal. Carradine and Roundtree are good as Moriarty’s nemeses on the NYPD, but it’s the creature itself that steals the show, with effects that would make Harryhausen laugh with joy. Thanks to Scream Factory, you can now take a trip to the New York City of yesteryear with this fun creature feature and keep your eyes on the sky!

Film Score: 3.5/5 Disc Score: 2.5/5