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  Flying Serpent, The The Bird Is The Word
Year: 1946
Director: Sam Newfield
Stars: George Zucco, Ralph Lewis, Hope Kramer, Eddie Acuff, Wheaton Chambers, James Metcalf, Henry Hall, Milton Kibbee
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: The treasure of the ancient Aztecs has been hidden for hundreds of years, but many archaelogists believe it to be situated somewhere in the ruins of their temples, specifically the one at Azteca, New Mexico. The Aztecs supposedly entrusted the protection of the treasure to the Gods, but now the only deity remaining is Quetzalcoatl, the winged serpent, and only one man knows of its existence: Andrew Forbes (George Zucco), another archaelogist. He has found the treasure and means to keep it for himself to make him rich beyond his wildest dreams, but it's a difficult thing to keep secret what with all these other fortune hunters looking for it as well...

P.R.C. was a studio even cheaper than Monogram, and The Flying Serpent displayed their penny pinching methods by remaking their earlier Bela Lugosi horror hit The Devil Bat, only this time instead of a bat it features the bird creature of the title. Scripted by the same writer, John T. Neville, it's more of a variation on the same theme than a straight reworking, but if anything it's even more ridiculous, with the deadly bat-attracting aftershave being replaced with deadly bird-attracting feathers. Yes, Forbes has to contrive to plant a feather on his potential victims.

And when he releases the flying serpent, it homes in on its lost feather and also kills off the fellow who happened to be nearest by sucking out the blood from his body. The first victim we see is published ornithologist Dr Lambert (James Metcalf) who expresses an interest in the Aztec ruins to Forbes' daughter Mary (Hope Kramer) and Forbes is less than pleased. So off Lambert goes to the temple, and the big bird is set free to drain his blood - thereby causing the media frenzy Forbes killed him to avoid! We know this has happened because we're told about five times in quick succession thanks to the sensational newspaper articles and the radio announcements we're regaled with.

Then there's the inquest, which goes over the details yet again, but introduces the character of Richard Thorpe (Ralph Lewis), a mystery writer who has his own radio show (plus an unreasonably aggressive boss) and a fascination with this new enigma. So off he goes to New Mexico to cover the story, and make a new friend in Mary; Forbes sees a fresh problem arising when Thorpe decides to investigate the ruins and he tries the old planting the feather trick, but not before it's implied that Forbes killed off his own wife in the same way!

The flying serpent is a sorry affair, a jerky puppet more likely to elicit titters than shivers. You'd expect this God to be an enormous terror with the wing span of a jet liner, but what we get is about the size of an Alsatian held up with embarrassingly obvious strings which make you ponder it's a miracle it gets off the ground. As the villain, Zucco is imperious, bad tempered and willing to kill off anyone in his path, but the creaky nature of his circumstances make the whole idea absurd. If you want to see a good film about Quetzalcoatl, you'd be better off with Larry Cohen's Q: The Winged Serpent, but if you want cheap (and brief) fun with a few unintentional giggles (not a good idea to run around with that feather, George) then stick with the original.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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