***/**** Image B- Sound B- Extras C
starring Michael Moriarty, Candy Clark, David Carradine, Richard Roundtree
written and directed by Larry Cohen
by Bryant Frazer Writer-director Larry Cohen makes exploitation look easy. His iconic Black Caesar was basically a remake of Little Caesar with a black cast; his mutant-baby flick It's Alive amplified the generational rift created in families by the social revolutions of the 1960s and early-1970s to horror-movie proportions. Cohen is so commercially savvy that his screenwriting career has continued, in earnest, into the 21st century, placing projects like Phone Booth, Cellular, and Captivity at the Venn-diagram intersection between high-concept appeal and low-budget execution. He also has an instinct for character, and it never served him better than it did in Q, which is the story of a little criminal in a big city as much as it's the story of a huge feathered serpent lording over Manhattan. Q was set up quickly (in two days, to hear Cohen tell it), after Cohen was fired from an adaptation of Mickey Spillane's I, the Jury, and it features a terrific cast (Michael Moriarty, David Carradine, and Richard Roundtree) improvising many of the scenes in a screenplay that was being written as the shoot progressed to take advantage of whatever New York locations Cohen was able to secure. The result isn't quite a great monster movie, but it gets maybe 80 percent of the way there.