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Flying Serpent, The

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1946; vt Killer with Wings). Producer's Releasing Corporation. Directed by Sam Newfield (credited as Sherman Scott). Produced by Sigmund Neufeld. Written by John T Neville from his original story. Cast includes Eddie Acuff, Hope Kramer, Ralph Lewis, James Metcalfe and George Zucco. 59 minutes. Black and white.

Demented archaeologist Professor Andrew Forbes (Zucco) has made two unlikely discoveries near San Juan, New Mexico. The first is that the Aztec Empire stretched that far north at one point, leaving behind a temple's ruins; the second is the existence of a flying, feathered lizard-like beast which he believes is the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl ("the Feathered Serpent"). Apparently the Aztecs sent a vast treasure north to hide it from the Spanish conquistadors, with the Monster as its guardian. Having accidentally caused the death of his wife by giving her one of the creature's feathers, Forbes realizes it will track and kill anybody who has a feather in their possession. He proceeds to use this knowledge to eliminate anybody whom he believes is a threat to him or the treasure (it is not clear what good the fortune is doing the Professor while hidden in the treasure chamber, except that he enjoys gloating over it). His modus operandi is to pluck a feather from Quetzalcoatl – which he keeps caged – to plant the feather on his next victim, and to release the monster, which tears open the doomed person's throat, drains the body of blood and obligingly returns to the cage. After several killings leave the local authorities baffled and helpless, radio station reporter Richard Thorpe (Lewis) is hired to investigate the affair; Thorpe broadcasts his investigation and closes in on Forbes with the aid of the latter's stepdaughter Mary (Kramer). Discovering the treasure chamber, Thorpe prepares a trap which will reveal the Professor as the killer. Forbes frees the creature at the climax while still unwisely clutching his latest plucked feather: naturally he himself is chased and killed, after which Thorpe shoots the "god" dead.

The Flying Serpent is an unacknowledged remake of The Devil Bat (1940), with the climactic scene made risible by the unanswered question of why Forbes does not simply throw away the fatal feather. Special effects are poor even by PRC's standards, with Quetzalcoatl suspended on visible strings and varying in size from scene to scene, from about three feet long to several times that. The film was loosely remade, with considerably better results, as Q (1983) direct by Larry Cohen. [GSt/DRL]


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