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    Q: The Winged Serpent Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Shout Factory

    Aug 30 2013 03:08 PM | Todd Erwin in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Larry Cohen’s love-letter to the creature feature, Q: The Winged Serpent may not be for everyone. Released theatrically in 1982, the film contains just the right amounts of campy humor, low-budget gore, stop-motion creature effects, with a few scares thrown in for good measure.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Shout! Factory
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    • Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: None
    • Rating: R
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 32 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type:
    • Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 08/27/2013
    • MSRP: $19.97

    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    Michael Moriarty (NBC’s Law & Order) stars as Jimmy Quinn, a fast-talking and down on his luck ex-con who gets involved in a jewelry store heist that leads him to the discovery of a mythical winged creature attacking citizens from atop Manhattan skyscrapers. David Carradine is Shepard, the New York detective investigating a series of gruesome sacrificial killings that ultimately lead to the same winged creature. When their paths finally cross, Jimmy makes the city an offer they can’t refuse: $1 million in exchange for the location of the creature’s nest (atop the Chrysler Building). Richard Roundtree (Shaft) plays Shepard’s partner, and Candy Clark (American Graffiti) plays Jimmy’s girlfriend.

    Writer-director Larry Cohen (The Stuff, It’s Alive) somehow managed to put this movie together in a matter of weeks after being fired from the much bigger-budgeted I, the Jury, convincing former American-International Pictures executive Samuel Arkoff to put up just over $1 million to finance it (still a small sum even by 1982 standards). What is surprising is, even without taking that into consideration, Q: The Winged Serpent works as a fun little monster movie. Moriarty steals the show with his rather wacked-out performance (L & O fans would find it hard to believe this is the same actor who played the very serious ADA Ben Stone), and the early effects work by David Allen (Young Sherlock Holmes), Randall Cook (Lord of the Rings), and Peter Kuran (Men In Black) still hold up reasonably well.

    Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA

    Q: The Winged Serpent has been released on various formats by various studios over the years (VHS/Beta/Laserdisc: MCA/Universal, DVD: Anchor Bay and Blue Underground), all of them looking a bit washed out. The 1080p transfer provided to Shout! Factory is very likely the best this independent film will ever look. Compressed using the AVC codec, the transfer approximates the film’s intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1 by slightly opening the top and bottom of the frame to 1.78:1. The low budget nature of the film is apparent in the overall softness and muted colors in the image, yet there is a consistency throughout. Grain is left intact and is never an issue.

    Audio Rating: 3/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track is a slight improvement over the original mono soundtrack. Music is spread across all channels (when played back in Pro-Logic mode), and there are a few panning effects. Dialogue is driven to the center channel, and for the most part is intelligible. However, there are a few sections where sound levels are a bit inconsistent, and at times slightly distorted. Like the video, much of this can be chalked up to the source material.

    Special Features: 3/5

    Audio Commentary by Writer/Producer/Director Larry Cohen: Cohen discusses this film at great length, speaking almost non-stop for the film’s entire 92 minute running time, praising Moriarty’s performance, casting David Carradine, shooting at the top of the Chrysler building, and some possible alternate casting choices (Bruce Willis and Eddie Murphy!).

    Theatrical Trailer (HD; 2:32): Apparently sourced and upconverted from an old VHS or Beta, the trailer has some major issues with dropped frames and interpolation, and the image is washed out.

    Teaser Trailer (HD; 0:33): The teaser doesn’t fare much better, appearing in an extremely soft and overly cropped (at approx. 2:1) transfer.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    Fans of Larry Cohen’s campy monster flick will likely be thrilled to finally have this on Blu-ray, along with a very interesting commentary track from the film’s creator.

    Reviewed by: Todd Erwin
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    13 Comments

    Photo
    Radioman970
    Aug 30 2013 05:28 PM

    Nice bit of history I didn't know about.  I'm a fan of anything with Candy Clark. 

     

    Fun flick. I just got my VHS (paid a buck for it years ago) out of storage.  Would love this disc but it'll have to wait. 

    While this is a more enjoyable film, I always put this in the same category as THE GIANT CLAW. LOL.

    "The low budget nature of the film is apparent in the overall softness and muted colors in the image..."

     

    I'm sorry, but what does the budget of a film have to so with it being "soft" or "muted"?  There are plenty of films that cost less than Q that have actual detail on their Blu-ray releases.  This looks like an upconvert at best, there is virtually no detail at all.

     

    Vincent

    That's the thing about integrity and reputation, it's a one strike situation.

      • Vincent_P likes this
    Lower budget films tend to use cheaper film stocks and/or processing.
      • Radioman970 likes this

    There is no such thing as "cheaper film stock".  I have no idea where that myth came from.  The 35mm film used to shoot Q would be the same 35mm film used to shoot any other movies of that era, the lower budget would simply mean they wouldn't be able to afford to shoot as much of it.  They could have possibly gotten a better deal at one lab vs. another but I don't see how developing the negative at one lab vs. another will magically make the image softer.  Maybe there could be some sloppy lab work but that won't soften the image.

     

    Vincent

    Photo
    Radioman970
    Sep 03 2013 03:26 AM

    (hopefully I'm not generalizing to beat the band but...) Cheaply made movies always looked cheaply made to me.  Heck, they still do even with today's technology.  Although I sometime make a mistake about something being low budget (I did that with Sunshine, the movie about the space trip to the sun). 

    "Looking cheaply made" has nothing to do with a lack of detail, though.  Lack of money for production design, proper effects, etc., will make a movie look "cheap".  My problem is with the comment about "low-budget softness", something I see thrown around a lot. 

     

    Vincent

      • Radioman970 likes this

    My guess is cheap films tend to look soft as a choice to hide the crappy effects and such due to budget. I always presumed it was a choice.

     

    How cheap is Q? was it shot on 35mm? Q came out on 82, but from my memory (I've not watched my bluray yet), it still felt like a 70's film. 70's films tend to have a softness to them as an aesthetic. Or a 70's films get bad transfers all the time.

     

    Also, from the review, Todd mentions that the film still looks washed out but that the "Grain is left intact and is never an issue", so really, my guess is the film was always soft as a cheat for the matte effects. Otherwise the grain structure would change if it was a transfer, right?

      • Radioman970 likes this
    Photo
    Radioman970
    Sep 04 2013 09:04 AM

    ^ very good comment about "hiding the cheese" and that it looks 70s.  I agree.  Although, I only have a tape of it.  I'd like to see it on blu someday. 

     

    @Vincent.  I was thinking the cheap=softness thing was mainly for old films.  I thought it was frequently the case... and not these days with all the digital stuff. 

     

    Not sure if this relates at all, or explains anything:  we were converting our old slides that dad took in the 60s, 70s, early 80s with an old manual camera that he never knew fully how to operate.  You could relate that to low budget productions as well.  These days, dad uses a digital camera and it takes effort to mess up pictures with it.  :D

    Am I recalling correctly that this film has a rather interesting score by Rags Ragland?

    There is no such thing as "cheaper film stock".  I have no idea where that myth came from.  The 35mm film used to shoot Q would be the same 35mm film used to shoot any other movies of that era, the lower budget would simply mean they wouldn't be able to afford to shoot as much of it.  They could have possibly gotten a better deal at one lab vs. another but I don't see how developing the negative at one lab vs. another will magically make the image softer.  Maybe there could be some sloppy lab work but that won't soften the image.

     

    Vincent

     

    Vincent, back in the film days, there were 3 or more different manufacturers of film stock (Eastman Kodak, Fuji, AGFA, etc.). Not all 35mm film is/was created equally, and not all of them cost the same per foot. Some stocks had a tighter grain structure, resulting in a much crisper image. Others had a much larger grain structure, obviously resulting in a much "grainier" image. Some stocks had a higher silver content, allowing for deeper blacks (Se7en was shot on this type of stock, and some release prints also utilized a similar reversal stock). And some stocks are better at reproducing colors than others.

     

    On a studio film, typically the cinematographer and director will choose various film stocks to convey a certain mood or look for a particular scene. On a low budget film, it is the cost of the film stock itself that often dictates what is used. Almost all of Roger Corman's New World Pictures movies made during the 1970s used Fuji stock for two main reasons - it reacted well under low light and was much cheaper than the Kodak equivalent.

     

    Add into the equation of what stock was used and how stable or volatile it became over several years (and how it was stored), that can affect how a film is transferred to HD video. Plus, the budget to make any corrections to the HD master to compensate for color fading and degradation. Most film stocks used in the 1970s and early 1980s were much more volatile than many had originally thought. Jaws is a good example, a film that was so washed out due to its age, regardless of how carefully the camera negatives and intermediates were stored by Universal, that the restoration was a very lengthy and expensive process.

     

    When I was shooting Super8 movies back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I almost exclusively used Kodachrome for daytime exteriors and Echtachrome for interiors. Echtachrome was slightly more expensive (and much grainier), so I tried to use the less expensive Kodachrome on a few occasions for my interiors. Most of the time, I ended up with rolls of almost dark film, because Kodachrome required a lot more light to capture an image, and ended up having to reshoot with Echtachrome.

     

    And if I was really cheap, I would use K*Mart film (which was either Fuji or Agfa, I can't recall), but that always had a blue tint to it.

      • Demetrios Patsiaris likes this
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    haineshisway
    Sep 18 2013 08:59 PM

    I haven't seen it - if it has "muted" colors then it was taken from a faded or fading element and I guess it never occurred to anyone that it's easy to fix, so easy it would make your head spin.  You can talk about stock, softness, whatever all you like - but colors were never faded.  If the color is not accurate then it's faded and should have been adjusted in the telecine room by a colorist who knows what they're doing.  It would have cost a few hundred dollars - maybe that's the problem.