If you're carrying around inside your head a schema of Michael Moriarty as Ben Stone, Assistant DA on "Law and Order," the grim, determined, rigidly moral prosecutor, this movie will shake you up.
Like an animated cardboard Halloween skeleton he is hardly ever at rest, his skinny frame flapping and wobbling, his hands and fingers splayed defensively. And his voice -- whining and indignant or, when the penny drops and he realizes he has the advantage, defiantly snotty. The guy rattles all over the screen and is a thorough delight to watch and hear.
One of the producers was being interviewed and the reporter remarked that the movie was nothing but schlock with a perfect method performance by Moriarty right in the middle of it. The producer beamed and said proudly, "The schlock was my idea."
A neat summary. The movie refuses to take itself seriously. I think sometimes the script tries to get solemn but it can't help chuckling at itself. It's about this big bird or reptile, an Aztec God, who has built a nest and laid an egg in the dome of New York's Chrysler Building.
Moriarty is running around trying to escape the mobsters who want to knock him off. He climbs into the decrepit tower atop the Chrysler Building, stands shivering in the wind, and chuckles proudly to himself, "Hah. I'm almost afraid of almost everything but I'm not afraid of heights." Then he stumbles on the nest and the cadavers strewn around it, a nightmarish sight. When he hobbles back to his trashy apartment his girl friend mentions something about making bacon and eggs. "No eggs," moans Moriarty, "I don't ever want to see another egg ever."
The mobsters finally trap Moriarty and he promises to lead them to the money they're after. He takes them to the Chrysler Building and sends them up into the dome where they are gobbled down by Quetzalcoatl. "HAH!", Moriarty shrieks as he scurries away -- "EAT 'EM! EAT 'EM!"
Meanwhile the bird has been putting the snatch on various people from New York's rooftops. A helicopter shot shows us all sorts of interesting things on the rooftops of those tall buildings, some of them looking like the Bavarian castle of Mad King Ludwig, all gingerbread and icing, a fabulous place to throw the right kind of party. David Carradine, as the necessary investigating detective, figures out what's up and shows his boss a sketch of the beast. The boss says something like, "A fifty-foot wingspan! Wow. With wings like that you could fly in from New Jersey. Everybody knows New York's a good place to eat." (All of this is played perfectly straight.)
Moriarty marches into the police station, says he knows where the bird has his digs, and says he won't reveal the location unless the city gives him a million dollars and some other things. A detective suggests they go into his office because there are too many reporters around. "Bring 'em in," says Moriarty. "Bring in the cameras and the newspapers! Bring RUPERT down here!" I must say again that Moriarty does a beautiful job of creating this character. He acts stupid, with his gaping mouth, but he has a seedy kind of intelligence too, the sort of intelligence a frightened but greedy child might have.
There are some in jokes as well. Near the start, Moriarty visits a bar in the Village and claims he's applying for a job as a musician. He sits at the piano and comes up with this engaging but defiantly atonal bebop thing and scats along with it, while the owner watches him and shakes his head in disgust. Sitting at the bar is David Carradine who remarks to Moriarty, "Sounded pretty good to me." Moriarty: "It did, huh? What the **** do you know?" Carradine turns back to his drink and mumbles, "Yeah, what do I know." Actually they both know quite a lot. Carradine is a talented musician who majored in music at San Francisco State, and Moriarty is an accomplished pianist with a couple of commercial recordings. The exchange is repeated at the end of the film, with the dialog changing speakers.
Anyway -- I can't stop laughing while I think about this movie -- anyway, Moriarty leads the cops to the nest where they shoot the egg full of holes. There follows an argument over whether Moriarty should get his reward. He claims he's showed them the location, which is what he promised to do, but the police argue that just getting the egg isn't the same as getting the bird.
I won't go on. I felt a bit sorry for Q when she met her end. Granted it had all the beauty of the rear end of a Mack truck but, still, doesn't motherhood mean anything to ANYBODY anymore? Whatever happened to family values???