I was expecting to see something different when I went to the L.A. Film Festival in 1981 to see George Romero’s Knightriders. For one thing, I didn’t realise Romero was so freakishly tall!. Romero is best known for Night of the Living Dead, Martin and Dawn of the Dead. So there I was, a teenager who loves zombie films, going to see Romero’s latest gore-fest.
But there was no blood! (Well, one trickle.) Instead I was treated to a three-hour long lyrical film about idealism. “King Billy” Ed Harris is the leader of a “renaissance troupe with a twist”. Instead of horses, they joust on motorcycles. Billy is idealistic and wants to live by the code of chivalry. He rejects the crass consumerism of modern life. Good for him, but not so good for the bottom line. Half of the troupe want to sell their hippy wares and make some money, while the other half are really into the whole thing of their lifestyle. Morgan (Tom Savini) just loves the bikes. Billy has been approached by promoters who promise him publicity and money. Morgan argues that the money will allow them to buy new, better, flashier equipment. Billy will have none of this.
Morgan and several others splinter off to live the decadent life of the celebrity. I won’t spoil the rest, because this is a wonderful, overlooked gem. If you post spoilers, please be so kind as to include spoiler boxes.
The bikes are great. Billy rides a Honda CBX, an inline-six that is a collector’s item nowadays. The jousts are exciting. When Morgan & Co. get their new rides, which are supposed to be oh-so-awesome, you can tell that they were difficult to handle.
Steven King makes a cameo as the obnocious “Hoagy Man”. His wife Tabitha appears as his wife. Dawn of the Dead cast members Ken Foree and Scott Reiniger also enjoy roles in this film.
IIRC, Romero cut an hour off of this film – and it was still three hours long. It received some criticism at the time for its length. Personally, I would sit through the extra hour. This is a wonderful, gentle film by the Master of Gore. Worth a look.
Saw this film when it came out. Loved it then, love it now.
This film was made in and around the Pittsburgh area, and rumor has that some of the armor ended up as loaner gear for new fighters in the local SCA.
I mentioned this one in the underappreciated film thread and no one agreed with me
I totally agree.
I caught this movie just flipping channels late one night in high school and was mesmerized. I thinnk it holds up really well even today…
Let’s not forget a young Patricia Tallman, who went on to play Leeta on Babylon 5.
I love Tom Savini! And he is the ultimate 70’s guy in Knightriders!
If you like Romero and have a few extra minutes, check out Scream Greats, vol. 1 from Fangoria films. It’s a bio of Tom Savini, and there’s a ton of Romero stuff in there (obviously).
Fun flick, it used to run on channel 5 in LA a lot.
Oh, right, detop. Quote the bit where I hit the key next to the “x”! :smack:
Really? I don’t remember it playing on TV.
(Speaking of KTLA… Remember “Popeye” Tom Hatten’s Family Film Festival? )
Knightriders came out about the same time I was joining up with the Society for Creative Anachronism, familiar to many of the SDMB members. I heard about it, but the movie had a very limited release and then was hard to find on videotape. Finally, a few years ago, Anchor Bay came out with a good DVD transfer, and it was one of the first disks I bought. It’s a guilty pleasure; I watch that movie at least once or twice a year.
If you get the DVD, the commentary soundtrack is quite enjoyable, with Savini, Romero, and Christine Forrest (who was in the movie and married Romero during the filming). They reminisce like family members, and clearly it was a blast to make that low-budget independent flick together. In fact, according to Romero, what the main theme of the movie means to him personally is the conflict between wanting to create art independently, or going for the bucks and letting somebody else control what you do.
Incidentally, this was Ed Harris’s second movie, and he delivers a very intense performance. Depending on my mood when I watch this picture, I’m not sure whether his character is a selfish asshole, or just a man who sticks by what he believes in. Maybe both.
A very young (and firm and bouncy) Patricia Tallman is quite good; her abnormally large eyes later worked well in her role as a telepath on “Babylon 5”. She also worked for years as a stuntwoman in movies like Jurassic Park.
One thing that always bothered me about her character in Knightriders:
It’s just so damned sad when Alan drops her off back at her home, abandoning her to her downtrodden mother and drunken, abusive father. Of course, if the characters correspond in some way to the Arthurian mythos, then you have Billy as Arthur, Morgan as Modred, Linet as Guinevere and Alan as Lancelot, which leaves poor Julie (Pat Tallman) in the position of Elaine. Sucks.
Also, some excellent stuntwork with the bikes.