May 7th, 2009

THE FLYING SERPENT (1946) ** ½

If you’re a fan of Larry Cohen’s Q:  The Winged Serpent, you might enjoy this cheapie horror flick from the Poverty Row film studio, PRC.  As with Q, this movie is all about Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec monster that is part bird and part reptile.  George Zucco stars as an uptight archeologist who controls the monster and orders it to kill anyone who meddles in his affairs.  Since the monster kills anyone who possesses one of its feathers, Zucco will plant the feathers on his intended victims and then let Quetzalcoatl go to town on them.  A nosy radio mystery writer is eventually brought on the case to stop the winged beastie and his unscrupulous master.  

 

The Devil Bat was a big hit for PRC and The Flying Serpent more or less follows the same basic outline.  Unlike that flick, The Flying Serpent is relatively low on chills and chuckles and takes itself very seriously.  The special effects aren’t bad for the time (and budget), although you can see the marionette strings that holds the monster up sometimes.  Zucco is OK in the lead but he’s no Bela Lugosi, whose wonderfully hammy performance made Devil Bat the classic that it is.  He does seem pretty convincing while giving Quetzalcoatl his little pep talks though.

 

I have a soft spot in my heart for these Poverty Row horror movies from the 40’s so I probably gave this an extra ½ than most people would.  The serpent attack scenes were a lot of fun and the scant 58 minute running time flew by.  (No pun intended.)  Most everything that takes place in between the serpent attacks is fairly low-grade, but monster movie fans should get a kick out of this flimflam.

 

Director Sam Newfield and Zucco also made the equally amusing The Mad Monster.

AKA:  Killer with Wings.

GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN (1958) * ½

After losing his job at Universal Studios, special effects make-up master Jack (Frankenstein) Pierce went on to do odd assignments for cheapie 50’s movies like The Brain from Planet Arous, I Bury the Living, The Amazing Transparent Man, and this turd.  Pierce’s make-up for the hulking undead Spanish Conquistador is pretty sweet and is easily the best thing about the movie.  It’s a shame the rest of the movie is so bad.

 

An archeological dig in the small town of Devil’s Crag uncovers the body of a tall (I’m sorry but I refuse to call this guy a “giant”) Spanish Conquistador.  It doesn’t take long for the spiteful Spaniard to resurrect itself and go to work chopping up the townsfolk.  In the end, the jackass archeologist tosses the “giant” into a waterfall.

 

You have to sit around and watch a lot of cinematic thumb twiddling before you get to see the goddamned monster do his thing.  Even then, it’s really not worth the wait.  All of the townspeople are idiots and pretty much deserve what they get.  I mean at one point when the lynch mob gathers to try to kill the monster at the height of its reign of terror, the townsfolk stop everything they’re doing and sit around and drink coffee!  Fucking morons.

 

To prove my point of just how idiotic the townspeople are, here’s a sample of their dialogue:  “You haven’t heard of the legend of the curse?”  Look, either your town has a Legend of the Killer Conquistador or it has a Curse of the Killer Conquistador.  You can’t have both.  “The Legend of the Curse of the Killer Conquistador“ is just redundant.  Not to mention stupid.

 

Director Richard E. Cunha, who was also responsible for the much more fun Frankenstein’s Daughter, paces the movie like an asthmatic snail.  It also doesn’t help that the performances are mostly all bad and every guy has that smug, square-jawed, 50’s asshole look to them.  I did like the crazy cackling Indian who warns the white folk though.  That guy was great.  Too bad he ends up on a meat hook.

 

AKA:  Giant from Devil’s Crag.  AKA:  Giant from Diablo Point.  AKA:  The Diablo Giant.