Quetzalcoatl, an Aztec God, is resurrected by ritual in Manhattan. Jimmy Quinn, a petty crook, happens across the serpent’s lair in the Chrysler Building and makes demands of the city before revealing the location.
This sprightly Larry Cohen monster movie literally starts where King Kong leaves off, with the decapitation of a horny windowcleaner on the Empire State Building, then wings its way across New York to the art deco splendours of the Chrysler Building, where a monster god prayed back into existence by a series of gruesome, skin-flaying human sacrifices has built a gory nest and laid a giant egg. “It wouldn’t be the first time in history that a monster was mistaken for a God,” says cop-on-the-case David Carradine (in one of his few suit-and-tie roles), “I guess that’s why I have to kill it – if you can kill it, it’s not a God, just a good old-fashioned monster.”
Most giant, city-smashing monster movies have the same plot – the monster shows up, menaces the community, and the stalwart authorities rally round to defeat the beastie – but Cohen cannily relegates all the expected business to the background to concentrate instead on someone who’d be a minor, one-scene character in any other film, giving Michael Moriarty free rein to improvise as the petty hustler who happens across one vital piece of information and tries to bargain his way to a better life even as bodies are falling from the skies and feathered Aztec killer-priests are on the loose. Moriarty, partnered interestingly by Candy Clark as his bartender girlfriend, gives the sort of performance that’d earn awards nominations if it were in Mean Streets or Midnight Cowboy – making the valuable observation that even if there’s a monster soaring through the skies, regular street-level lowlife carries on. The animated monster looks hand-made, but is still fun.
Enjoyable monster movie with some pretty decent performances.
Reviewed by Kim Newman