Q (1982)

Q (1982)
aka The Winged Serpent
Article 5971 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-29-2021
Directed by Larry Cohen
Featuring David Carradine, Michael Moriarty, Candy Clark
Country: USA
What it is: Big Bird gone real bad

A giant winged serpent is snacking on the people of New York City. Where did it come from? And what can be done about it?

It’s a rare thing when the giant monster in a giant monster movie is upstaged by the human story, but that’s how this one plays out. Credit goes to Michael Moriarty; his performance as a small-time crook who tries to parley his knowledge of the monster’s hiding place into a pardon and a fortune is a phenomenal piece of acting. The movie also has a good sense of humor and David Carradine is also outstanding as the police detective who tries to link the monster with a series of ritual murders. The movie has only a lukewarm rating on IMDB, but I found it engaging from beginning to end. This one is recommended.


Quatermass (1979)

Quatermass (1979)
Article 5917 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-3-2021
Directed by Piers Haggard
Featuring John Mills, Simon MacCorkindale, Ralph Arliss
Country: UK
What it is: Apocalyptic Sci-Fi / Horror

Bernard Quatermass comes out of a hermit-like isolation to discover civilization has degenerated and large groups of young people have become members of a cult that believes they will be transplanted to a new planet if they gather at strategic sites on the planet. When a large group of them are destroyed at Ringstone Round, Quatermass tries to grasp the nature of the horror that threatens the Earth.

Generally, this extension of the Quatermass series is considered a bit of a disappointment by many, but though I do have a few problems with the story, I still find it satisfying nonetheless. Certainly, the nature of the horror is much vaster than the ones in the previous entries of the series, but that fits the pattern; in each of the series, the horror becomes bigger and more difficult to grasp. The story does have a few problems; it’s over-reliant on coincidences on occasion, and I’m not sure it succeeds in accomplishing all it sets out to do. I did remained entranced and entertained by the serial, though, and feel that it makes for a good ending to the Quatermass saga.

Quatermass II (1955)

Quatermass II (1955)
TV Miniseries
Article 5811 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-18-2020
Directed by Rudolph Cartier
Featuring John Robinson, Monica Grey, Hugh Griffith
Country: UK
What it is: Science fiction thriller

Professor Quatermass investigates a series of meteorite landings in a specific area, which leads to an investigation of a secret government installation and a conspiracy covering up… what?

I must confess that ENEMY FROM SPACE remains my least favorite of the movie adaptations based on the British Quatermass teleserials, but it took watching the original TV version here to articulate why. In ENEMY FROM SPACE, I don’t find Bernard Quatermass an interesting character, but rather just a standard issue scientist/hero of the era; the other two movies make him a more complex character. In the original teleseries, he is indeed an interesting character, but for the sake of keeping things to a reasonable length, the movie jettisoned most of the plot elements that brought out the character’s more complex nature, and instead focused on the events in the government compound. So perhaps it should be no surprise that I like the original teleseries a lot better than the movie version; not only is it more complex and with more interesting characters, it keeps the suspense fairly high throughout the whole story. The performances are fine, though I was surprised to see certain names on the cast list until I matched them up to their characters; both Hugh Griffith and Roger Delgado are actors who I recognize by their beards, and both are clean-shaven here.

The Queen of the Butterflies (1927)

aka La reine des papillons
Article 5427 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-17-2017
Directed by Wladyslaw Starewicz
Featuring Nina Star
Country: France
What it is: Animated fairy tale

A little girl who works as a carnival dancer is given a gift of a caterpillar as a joke. She spares the caterpillar’s life, and one night dreams she is turned into an elf and becomes the Queen of the Butterflies.

The last two Starewicz shorts have been examples of light-hearted whimsy. This one captures the man’s work at his most ambitious, and it’s one of his best efforts. He combines live-action footage with stop-motion animation, sometimes with characters who exist as both; the Queen of the Butterflies is played by Nina Star in some scenes, but is animated in other scenes, and Starewicz’s skill makes it work beautifully. He returns to his use of animated insects here, and imagines an elaborate war between an army of grasshoppers and an army of spiders; those who get the creepy-crawlies from spiders may want to skip this one. Some of the scenes have so much going on in them that I’m simply amazed at the man’s skill. The short is serious in tone, and features a subplot about the girl trying to learn to play violin. The ending also delves into the world of abstract animation, and it somewhat recalls moments of Disney’s FANTASIA.

To my mind, Wladyslaw Starewicz is one of the greatest animators of all time, but I think he still has yet to receive his due acclaim. Perhaps someday that will change.

Queen Kong (1976)

Article 5040 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-5-2016
Directed by Frank Agrama
Featuring Robin Askwith, Rula Lenska, Valerie Leon
Country: UK / France / West Germany / Italy
What it is: Parody

A female movie crew brings a male actor into a dangerous situation when he is kidnapped and offered to a giant female ape, Queen Kong.

It took four countries to make this one? I wonder which one supplied the back yard. Yes, I get it – The main joke is that it’s a reverse-gender KING KONG. That doesn’t mean the joke is automatically funny; it’s what you do with it. This movie tries to do a lot with it, but none of it’s good and none of it’s funny. The special effects are on the level of THE MIGHTY GORGA, but I’m not going to knock it for that; as a parody, the bad special effects are probably intentional. I will knock it for it’s incredible witlessness; despite the fact that the movie gives ample opportunities for laughs, it manages to miss every one. About the only thing this movie is good for is a drinking game; take a drink every time the movie tries to make you laugh at the phrase “Lizanga-where-they-do-the-Konga” and you’ll probably be mercifully out like a light before the movie is half over.

All of the sudden, APE is starting to look good. I never thought I’d say that.

Les quatre petits tailleurs (1910)

aka The Four Little Tailors
Article 4250 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-15-2013
Directed by Emile Cohl
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Whimsical sewing short

Four tailors have a competition exhibiting their sewing techniques; the victor wins the hand of a beautiful woman.

The fantastic content isn’t apparent in the plot description, but, given that the director is Emile Cohl, it will come as no surprise that when it does show up, it will involve animation. In this case, some of the tailors use magical sewing techniques where the threads and needles sew of their own volition; the most interesting bit has one of the tailors mending the wing on a fly. Most of the short is live action, and one of the twists of the story is finding out which tailor wins. The animation sequences are the definite highlight here; the rest is mildly entertaining whimsy.

Quest for Fire (1981)

aka La guerre du feu

Article 3653 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-31-2011
Posting Date: 8-15-2011
Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud
Featuring Everett McGill, Ron Perlman, Nicholas Kadi
Country: Canada / France / USA
What it is: Caveman movie

When a primitive tribe is attacked by an enemy, the survivors find that they cannot revive their precious fire. They send out three of their tribe on a quest to find some fire and bring it back to them.

This isn’t the first or only caveman movie with an invented language, but I think this is the one that works best. By choosing a storyline that is appropriate and easy to follow, it makes it unnecessary to try to figure out the various languages, and by casting interesting-looking actors with expressive faces, much of the story is told without really having to use the languages. The primitive world is brutal and deadly, but the movie never feels exploitative, and there is plenty of humor to be found along the way; the reactions of two of characters on the quest to the third one’s having fallen in love is priceless, for example. My favorite scene has our three heroes and their new female friend (played by Rae Dawn Chong, who spends the whole movie naked) under attack by a hostile tribe only to be saved by the unexpected appearance of a group of mammoths. All in all, this was a fascinating and satisfying movie.

A Quiet Place in the Country (1969)

aka Un tranquillo posto di campagna

Article 3632 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-10-2011
Posting Date: 7-25-2011
Directed by Elio Petri
Featuring Franco Nero, Vanessa Redgrave, Georges Geret
Country: Italy / France
What it is: A ghost story… maybe

An artist becomes obsessed with a dilapidated old mansion in the country, and his agent/lover arranges for him to rent the place so he can overcome his creative block. However, he becomes obsessed with the former resident, a beautiful nymphomaniac who died under odd circumstances… and who may haunt the place.

Many giallos are so stylistic that they flirt with being art films; this is one that goes the whole distance and becomes one. The title is obviously ironic, and this becomes apparent in the opening credits; between the weird images and Ennio Morricone’s jarring but brilliant score, one becomes aware that this movie is going to be anything but restful. On the surface, the story is made of familiar material; it’s a ghost story in a haunted mansion with a mysterious death, and there’s even a seance before it’s all over. But that’s just what’s on the surface, and what’s really going on is… well, I won’t tell you, but I’m afraid that the real explanation is equally familiar in other ways, and ultimately it is this that renders the movie a bit unsatisfying. Still, I can say this much; the beginning of the movie establishes a reality vs illusion theme, and it is this theme that eventually takes over the movie. There’s some nice stylistic touches (I’m particularly struck with how the agent’s first accident in the house is seen through a kaleidoscope) and some good performances, but in the end, I don’t think it quite passes muster.

The Questor Tapes (1974)

Article 3418 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-11-2010
Posting Date: 12-23-2010
Directed by Richard A. Colla
Featuring Robert Foxworth, Mike Farrell, John Vernon
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction TV series pilot

When scientists undertake to reconstruct an experiment of a missing scientist (now believed dead), the end result is an android. The android embarks on a journey to find his creator to discover his purpose.

This is another one of Gene Roddenberry’s attempts to come up with a series after the demise of the original “Star Trek”. This is the one I would have most liked to have seen make it to a series, if for no other reason than to get an idea of just how it would manifest itself in that way; the pilot itself serves as mostly an introduction to the main characters and the premise, and probably wouldn’t have captured quite what the series would have been like. Some of the observations of the non-human android on the human condition are a bit on the cliched side, but some of it is quite fresh, and the movie has a number of interesting ideas. Still, as a series, I could see how it might have fallen into a certain pattern of predictability. I found Robert Foxworth’s performance as Questor quite striking.

The Queen of Spades (1916)

aka Pikovaya dama
Article 3253 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-16-2010
Posting Date: 7-11-2010
Directed by Yakov Protazanov
Featuring Tamara Duvan, Ivan Mozzhukhin, Vera Orlova
Country: Russia
What it is: Ghost revenge story

A poor soldier, obsessed with gambling but unable to do so due to lack of funds, becomes intent on learning the secret of a countess who knows a secret three-card combination that can make him rich.

Though I don’t think it’s as impressive as the British version of the story from the late forties, this Russian silent film is still quite useful, as it emphasizes other story details that are often overlooked in other versions. In particular, it gives us a much more elaborate backstory for the countess; the first third of the move involves the circumstances surrounding her discovery of the secret. It deemphasizes the soldier’s relationship with the countess’s ward (a ruse designed by the soldier to give him access to the countess), it clarifies some of the plot points, and it stretches out the climax by having the three cards played in succession over three nights. Somehow, these changes make this version of more interest than it would be otherwise. I haven’t read the original Pushkin story yet (though I do have a copy), so I wonder how closely it follows it. At any rate, I found this silent version quite watchable, though it lacks the eerie strengths of the British version.