Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factorized: Q: THE WINGED SERPENT & DARK ANGEL on Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Scream Factorized: Q: THE WINGED SERPENT & DARK ANGEL on Blu-ray

Q: THE WINGED SERPENT(1982; Larry Cohen)
Larry Cohen is one of those kinda self-made filmmakers that I can't help but have a healthy amount of respect for. He's not quite Roger Corman-level self-made(though interestingly Samuel Z. Arkoff "presented Q), but he's darned impressive nonetheless. I think that one of the things that impresses me most about him is his skill as a writer. Not to say that his films are best picture material or anything, but almost all of them are solid genre/exploitation films that are interesting and stand out amongst a ton of less-than-impressive efforts I've come across from his contemporaries. It's clear that at a certain point(& certainly today), a filmmaker does not have to make a good film for it to be successful, but Cohen is a much more thoughtful dude than that. His stories are often quite unique or at least take familiar material and bring something new to it. I know that's a big part of the reason he's become the cult director he is today. Another of Cohen's great talents is his ability to work in a bunch of different genres. Horror, drama, action; he is equally adept at each.
Another part of Q's particular cult appeal is the cast. David Carradine and Richard Roundtree play a couple cops investigating a series of bizarre murders. That right there is enough to get my attention. Then you've got Michael Moriarty, the crown jewel of Cohen's stock company of actors. The two worked together a bunch, always to great effect. Moriarty is a great fit for Cohen in that he too is a very versatile guy. Here he plays a small-time thief who stumbles upon the nest of some kind of giant flying creature in the dilapidated upper-regions of an old skyscraper. Said creature is gobbling up New Yorkers in bunches each day so needless to say, the cops are a bit desperate to find it. Moriarty's character, Jimmy Quinn, finally sees an opportunity to capitalize on his exclusive knowledge of the creature's whereabouts.
In true Roger Corman fashion, Larry Cohen provides us with only glimpses of the creature until the films final 10 minutes. This has always been a slight sticking point for me, but I understand how budgetary constraints may have made it more difficult to show more than that. The transfer looks nice and this is, without question, the best this movie has ever looked. It also includes a solid commentary track from Mr. Cohen himself. It's a fun track and you know it's going to be a fun track when it's starts with,"Okay, I'm Larry Cohen and I don't know what I'm talking about". Cohen then goes on to describe a horrible early test screening which had tons of walk outs(many thought they there there to see CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND) including Carl Reiner and his wife. He then goes on to detail the films critical success(even Siskel & Ebert liked it) and describes many facets of the film's production. It is remarkable what he accomplished off based on the stories he tells here. Fun stuff.

DARK ANGEL aka I COME IN PEACE(1990; Craig R. Baxley)
Dolph Lundgren. There can be only one such fellow. Ivan Drago, The Punisher, He-Man. He is all these things and much more. I must say I've been pleased to see him get a bit of a renaissance via THE EXPENDABLES movies in recent years.
Like many folks my age, I was first introduced to Lundgren as the evil Russian dynamo Ivan Drago in ROCKY IV. He was a remarkable villain and elevated what seems in retrospect to be a cash grab sequel for sure(I guess most sequels are cash grabs huh?). Later, during my high school years, I became obsessed with the Punisher comic book series. So obsessed that a few people even addressed me as "Frank" in my last high school yearbook. Also so obsessed that I acquired THE PUNISHER standup from my local video store when they were done with it and kept it in my room for years. Dolph was a decent Punisher in my eyes so I dug the movie for sure. I was of course a big Schwarzenegger fan too around that time. Both THE TERMINATOR and PREDATOR were a pretty big deal to me. So I COME IN PEACE hit kind of a sweet spot for me in that it was kind of a PREDATOR/TERMINATOR-type movie, but with Dolph. It's a great mash up of a genre piece and one that I feel has been forgotten a bit over the years. For those of you that dig 80s classics like PREDATOR, THE TERMINATOR or THE HIDDEN(less well-known, but comparable), this is the flick for you. Also, this film has a certain continuity with THE PUNISHER for me in that Dolph still has the dark hair, which he only had for a few films. Plus his character has a similar gruffness to Frank Castle, which I like. He and Brian Benben actually have a pretty enjoyable buddy-cop chemistry. Oh and did I mention there is some badass weaponry in the movie too? Well there is and that's another standout feature for 80s action fans like myself.
The disc includes a nice 25 minute retrospective featurette on the making of the film, featuring director Craig R. Baxley, Dolph Lundgren, & Brian Benben. Early on, Baxley talks about how the film was initially sold to him as a $25-30 million production, but that that budget was substantially reduced to $5-7 million as soon as he actually signed on. Thankfully, Baxley comes from stunt work as does his family so they had the knowhow to get things done action-wise safely and cheaply. The stunts & action in the film have always been memorable for me and I'm all the more impressed to know the budget level this film was what is was and what they pulled off.

Both films can be purchased via Shout Factory's website:

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