Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rip-off Theater?: The Flying Serpent

Larry Cohen is one weird, whacked out bastard. The man has written and directed such films as It's Alive and The Stuff. Not to mention a movie about spree killings that turns into one about aliens and the history of mankind- you can figure out which movie that is. One of his most famous movies on the cult circuit is the cinematic classic Q: The Winged Serpent. For my take on that film, go here. How many other films do you know with Quetzalcoatl starring in it? Well, my friends, there is at least one more. This little cinematic gem has been all but forgotten in our modern age of cinema. You guessed it- I'm going to change that! This is...
You have to understand that this movie was made a long time ago (although it's not the oldest review on the page) and will not be as coherent and clever as newer stuff.
The film establishes early on that an eeevil archaeologist (character actor George Zucco) has discovered a mysterious and ancient creature. It is a serpent with wings that lives in a cave just outside of San Juan, Mexico. Of course, why didn't I look there?!? By the by, there is also Montezuma's treasure in there. Problems arise, however, when a local ornithologist mentions in an article about how the treasure may be nearby. He has not actually seen it, mind you, he is just speculating. Our villain comes up with a rather odd plan to kill him. The movie hinges upon one setup for all the killings that is a little silly. Basically, the bad guys plucks one of the beast's feathers and plants it on who he wants dead. He lures them to the site and the beast attacks, in order to reclaim the feather.
I have to admit a sad fact to you now: this movie has almost no budget. You figure that out when the beast first attacks and you realize...that it is a fairly-small doll on a string. In fairness, there is some good detail work done (enhanced by the lack of color, honestly), but it is still not going to compare to Cohen's beast. This murder catches the attention of the local press, which brings us our hero, heroine and comic relief characters. The first one is a radio show host who decides to do a show in the area for some cheap promotion. The second one is the villain's daughter, who is completely in the dark about the whole thing. For a film that is already a rip-off (for the most part) of The Devil Bat, it is nice to see that they can also borrow some plot elements from 1944's Mad Monster as well. The comic relief is the host's technician who, let's be honest, adds nothing.
After another couple of murders (using the same monster exiting the cave and flying shots), the evidence obviously points to the scientist. This is not helped by his claims of being 'the richest man in the world!' The problem is that he never takes the money out or uses it. He's a lot like Bill Gates used to be: the richest man in his country...if he ever cashed in the stuff. After they figure out who is the culprit, they set up a trap for him. They decide to do a live show near the cave, which draws the man to do his old trick again. In a clever bit, they switch backpacks with the man and his one beast attack him to get the feather back. Villain dead- check. Guy gets girl- check. Comic relief dies horrible, bloody death- sadly, no check there.
This movie is good, but definitely not for everyone. If you can appreciate the differences in 50+ year old cinema, you will have a good time. The acting is solid, the pace is pretty even and the monster is there for enough. The actual creature shots, as I said, are limited, but still good. The biggest complaint most people will have is that the film is too dry and I can see that perspective. In spite of this, all of you Seth McFarlane's (he loves old cinema, in case you hadn't noticed) out there will enjoy this gem for the uniqueness alone.
Up next, a film that is not Demons 3. Of course, Demons 3: The Ogre is not really Demons 3 either. Confused? You won't be...much. Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. I saw THE FLYING SERPENT years ago on television back in the early 80's when the weekends were owned by horror and fantasy flicks. I think there was a Goodtimes tape for FLYING SERPENT at one point. Not too sure, though.