George Zucco is Andrew Forbes, an archeologist who has discovered the legendary lost treasure of Montezuma in some ruins in New Mexico; he has also found its guardian, the "feathered serpent" of Aztec mythology, the god Quetzalcoatl, who is some sort of bird-reptile holdover from the prehistoric age. Forbes finds that placing one of the beast's feathers on an unsuspecting victim causes the vain bird-god to track down this unfortunate and reclaim the feather. Oh, and also kill the feather poacher and drink all his blood. Forbes starts using the title creature to safeguard his treasure, but soon finds circumstances escalating, as a radio sleuth arrives to solve the mystery of these slayings. On the air, live.
It's been said before that seemingly everything is going to arrive on DVD eventually, and The Flying Serpent seems proof of that. It's extraordinary to reflect that a fairly obscure movie from the vaults of ultra-cheapo studio PRC should get the digital treatment, much less a bizarre retread of the Bela Lugosi vehicle The Devil Bat.
Much of this is doubtless due to the presence of Zucco as the bad guy. Largely overshadowed by other genre actors, Zucco delivered stalwart work in villain roles for years, and remains dear to many movie mavens. While neither as genteel as Karloff nor exotic as Lugosi, Zucco exuded an intelligent menace, rather like a Sir Ralph Richardson gone bad. For example, Zucco was ever the only logical choice to play the Napoleon of Crime, Professor Moriarty, which he did in two of the Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies.
It's certainly not due to the monster, of which we paradoxically see too much and yet not enough. Lengthy shots abound of the winged thing flapping about canyons, looking for all the world like an ungainly mutant pheasant, yet we are denied anything but quick shots (or shadowy, underlit scenes) of its face, which doesn't exactly render it terrifying.
The movie does have some value as an example of PRC's output, or of Zucco's skill; thus historians, villain fans and connoisseurs of bargain bin monsters will find the disc at least worth a rental. At less than an hour's running time, it's fairly painless, and even entertaining in that "People paid to see this?" sort of way.
On the other hand, it's kind of hard to bankroll restoration of a PRC movie. The film elements are never less than watchable, but damage abounds, including several bad splices that evidence missing footage during dialogue scenes. Still, the transfer is fairly sharp and some effort has gone into taming the hiss that is the curse of so many older film soundtracks.
There's a fairly comprehensive George Zucco filmography (he said, trying to sound as upbeat as possible).
Dr. Freex, 10/16/00