In Review: Knightriders on Blu-ray

by Neil Sheppard on 07/05/2013


A man and a woman lay naked in the forest. They rise and bathe in a nearby stream and don medieval garb. The beautiful lady puts on a crown and her dashing knight straps on armour. They mount the knight’s noble steed and ride off into the forest. Only, the steed is a motorbike…

This opening visual pun is the basis for zombie lord George A. Romero’s ego piece Knightriders (1981). The knight is Ed Harris, the King Arthur of a travelling Renaissance fair that takes itself way too seriously. The troupe take part in demolition derby-style jousts on bikes that regularly puts their lives in danger, along with the safety of their audience.

The group has its own Guinevere, Lancelot, Mordred and even Merlin, in the form of the staff doctor, and the film unfolds its own satirical version of Arthur’s story. You can see Seth Rogen or Ben Stiller remaking this as a low-brow comedy, but Romero plays the whole film pretty much straight…for two and a half hours.

The movie swings wildly from Smokey and The Bandit-style chase sequences to soliloquies on alienation in modern society. Cameo appearances and immature puns fall alongside violent hate crimes, drugs and bare boobs. You can’t help but wonder who Romero thought his audience would be, since he clearly made the film for himself and no-one else.

Knightriders is definitely unique, undoubtedly well shot and there are plenty of minor names showing up among a solid cast. Special effects wizard Tom Savini takes an acting role, Patricia Tallman, who would go on to appear in sci-fi TV show Babylon 5 and the Night of the Living Dead remake, and even Stephen King and his wife, for some reason. Still, it’s a long movie with very little charm.

There’s probably a germ of a fun Police Academy-style comedy with a moral here, but Romero is much too interested in ranting about the philosophical merits of being an avant garde entertainer to worry about whether anyone would want to sit through this epic. The original European release ran for 100 minutes. It probably would have got another torch.

Neil has awarded Knightriders one solitary Torch of Truth


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