On one level Larry Cohen‘s Q (a.k.a., The Winged Serpent) is a ludicrous crap-level B movie about a prehistoric flying dinosaur wreaking havoc upon Manhattan from a perch atop the Chrysler building. On another level it’s one of the wittiest genre goofs ever made — a kind of loose hipster comedy that almost lampoons the monster-threat aspect — with an almost mystifying performance by Michael Moriarty as the ultimate doofus-dweeb protagonist.

There’s a legendary bit when Moriarty, a part-time scat-singing performer, spazzes out as he watches the serpent attack an unsympathetic victim, nearly frothing at the mouth as he yells “eat ‘um! eat ‘um!” (The way Moriarty yells this over and over is especially delicious, like he’s some hyper retarded child.) David Carradine plays it dryer and more low-key, but delivers hoots of his own.

This trailer is hilarious but it doesn’t begin to suggest the subversive sophistication in Q. By emphasizing the obvious and the ludicrous it makes it seem like one of the stupidest monster movies of all time. The crucial difference when you watch the film is that Cohen clearly knows this, and has decided to play with the absurdity the way a cat plays with a captured mouse while letting Moriarty pull out the geek stops.

It’s an almost certain fact that Q‘s producer Sam Arkoff was completely unaware of what Cohen was up to, and that he didn’t care.

Sample dialogue (all of it spoken by Moriarty): (a) “Maybe his head got loose and fell off”, (b) “I want a Nixon-type pardon!”, (c) “Eat ’em! Eat ’em! Crunch crunch!” (d) “Stick it in your brain. Your tiny little brain!”