KnightRiders (1981) [Blu-Ray]


It’s obscene how underrated “KnightRiders” is. For a Romero movie, it’s such a departure from the norm that his fans are accustomed to, but it’s also very much a George Romero film. Not only does “KnightRider” garner much of the tropes that Romero is fond of, including the biker aesthetic, journeymen characters anti-heroes, commentaries on the monotony of domestic life, and a meshing of various races, but you can also make a great game out of spotting cast members that have been in Romero films, or will eventually be in one. Hey, there’s Joe Pilato! Look! Scott Reiniger! Patricia Tallman!

“KnightRiders” is an excellent epic drama about a group of jousters and battle enthusiasts that keep to the code of honor for the ancient knights of camelot, while also embracing their love for the motorcycle. They stage massive tournaments and competitions and promote their fairs through old fashioned fliers that bring in crowds. But as the sport grows ever more demanding, and supplies begin running out, the performers realize that the tournament has grown too big to handle with a simple staff. The costs are getting higher, inflation is making it difficult to travel across country with supplies, the staff is demanding more money for the risks they’re taking, and to make it worse, the group has run across a corrupt sheriff demanding a pay off for their stay in a local town. What’s also hurting the competition is that it’s continuing to grow with popularity and has a chance to become a bankable sport.

King William (aka Billy) is desperately trying to keep the tournaments underground and simple, while other performers in the troupe are anxious to transform in to stars, all tempted with the promises of more money, endorsements, and fame. Especially top knight and jouster Morgan, as played by Tom Savini. He’s not only more enthusiastic than the King, but he’s consistently challenging him for the throne. Morgan insists for the sport to survive, it must grow, but William clings to the classic ways of competition. Ed Harris gives a great performance as King William who oversees much of the competitions and rituals and is militant in sicking to the rules and codes of Camelot during competitions. Much of the tournament is based around upholding the way of the warrior, and William is intent on living by those standards, but fights an uphill battle as the changes begin losing sight of what his intentions for the competition was.

Director Romero pays tribute to the old ways of society, while examining down to Earth and interesting characters, all of whom consistently clash with one another as they desperately attempt to stay together as they grow. And eventually grow apart. Romero employs a great cast of dynamic actors including Savini who really garners a strong chemistry with Harris, as well as folks like Patricia Tallman, Brother Blue, and Amanda Davies. The stunt work and combat sequences are excellent, with moments of sheer tension and incredible choreography that express the bitter resentment within the group, and how they resolve their issues as modern symbols of the knights of the round table. This is a change of pace for George A. Romero, and a truly welcome one. “Knightriders” is an entertaining, engrossing, and fantastic action picture, and a one of kind genre entry only Romero is capable of.

Featured in the new Blu-Ray release from Shout! there’s a great eight minute interview with star Ed Harris who recollects the film fondly. “Memories of Morgan with Tom Savini” is a ten minute interview with co-star Tom Savini who discusses his acting career, his work in theater and his fondness for character Morgan. “Code of Honor with George Romero” is a seventeen minute interview with director George Romero who displays some slight resentment toward being pegged only as a “zombie” director, and how he always wanted to direct films of different genres.

“Behind the Scenes – The Stunts of Knightriders” is an old transfer from a past video exploring the excellent stunts for “Knightriders.” There’s three minutes of trailers and TV Spots, and finally there’s an audio commentary with the Cast and Crew of “KnightRiders.” Folks like George Romero, John Amplas, Tom Savini, and Chris Stavrakis all of whom have a great time recollecting much of the film shoot, their experiences during the fight scenes, and stories about casting the film.

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