A mysterious flying beast is preying on the inhabitants of Manhattan, dropping body parts all over the city and causing hard-bitten detective Shepard (David Carradine) no end of worry. He's also investigating a series of ritual killings, and starts to consider that the two occurrences may have some connection. Meanwhile, small-time crook Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty) has accidentally stumbled upon the beast's lair and begins thinking of ways to exploit this information.
Larry Cohen's witty, inventive monster mash is one of the eighties' most endearing B-movies, the dubious special effects more than made up for by a sparkling script and some great performances. David Carradine takes the lead role in typically deadpan fashion, identifying the eponymous air-bourne serpent as the ancient Aztec god Quetzalcoatl and planning its capture like he was performing a routine investigation (as Shepard states at one point, it's easier to go up against a monster than a god). However, Michael Moriarty's fast-talking loser hood Quinn get all the best lines ("Stick it up your brain!"), and Moriarty effortlessly steals very scene he's in. Upon the discovery of Quetzalcoatl's nest (up the top of Chrysler building), Quinn decides to blackmail the city, demanding a tax-free $1 million, plus a pardon for any past or future crime ("Didn't Ford do that for Nixon? I want a Nixon-type pardon!"). Quinn believes that he's the city's saviour and that his reward is merely what society owes him, while his girlfriend Joan (Candy Clark) is appalled that he's sat on this information, allowing innocent people to die in the meantime.
Q has a decent helping of gore (an early decapitation, some severed limbs, a bit of ritual skinning), plus an old-fashioned stop-motion creature, but it's as much an urban comedy as horror flick. It's a great New York film – Manhattan is frequently shot dizzyingly from the air, while the teeming streets are caught in urgent handheld style. The colourful supporting cast add to the flavour too, from the Italian mobsters who are after Quinn following a botched diamond heist, to the pompous bureaucrats who sanction Quinn's 'reward' money. It's also good to see Richard Roundtree in here as Shepard's partner, almost outdoing Carradine in the hard-ass, no-bullshit stakes.
Energetically paced and admirable in its refusal to either question the logic of the premise or take itself too seriously, Q is probably Cohen's most fully-realised film; certainly his funniest. It's got an unnecessary 'shock' coda, but for the most part this is ridiculously enjoyable stuff.
Talented American writer/director who often combines exploitation subject matter with philosophical/social concepts. Began working in TV in the 1960s, where he created popular sci-fi series The Invaders, before directing his first film, Bone (aka Dial Rat), in 1972. A pair of blaxploitation thrillers - Black Caesar and Hell Up In Harlem - followed, while 1974's horror favourite It's Alive! was a commercial hit that led to two sequels.