Something of a filmic curiosity, Knightriders is a rather peculiar 1981 offering from legendary horror director George A. Romero. The American had already firmly established himself as an auteur of some style and finesse with his 1968 debut Night of the Living Dead, teen vampire flick Martin and zombie follow up Dawn of the Dead.
To fans of those films, this medieval motorbike fantasy might come as something of a surprise. Released here in a ‘deluxe edition’ (translated as ‘unedited’) the film takes the audience on 147 minutes of two wheeled jousting and vague political comment.
Not to be confused with the Hasselhoff computerised car TV series of nearly the same name, this is something else entirely.
Starring Ed Harris (The Abyss, A History of Violence) in his first starring role, the film follows a travelling medieval re-enactment group as they travel across the southern states of the USA. Troubled by local police and a vague sense that they don’t quite fit in anywhere, the group struggle to stick together.
And to be fair, that’s about it, and while the action scenes are fairly good fun, there is not a clear story apart from a vague (key word there) soul searching.
Transposing Harris’ leader’s romantic – and pretty nutty – ideas of honour and justice with Reaganite America’s course capitalism and dog-eat-dog society, Knightriders attempts a satirical dig at the politics of the time.
This, it has to be said, doesn’t quite work. The theorising and sociological debate come across more like a late night meeting of hippyfied-minds than anything else and one wonders whether Romero dabbled in anything himself when composing this enjoyable, yet massively over-stretched project.
Some of the most fun in watching this can be to spot the assortment of guest stars and cameos. There’s Stephen King and his wife Tabitha. Here’s Martin Ferrero (Izzy from Miami Vice) as a greedy publicity agent and there’s horror veteran and make-up legend Tom Savini. A whole host of Romero regulars all add to the entertainment and spectacle of this strange but generally likeable offering.
The only thing that is truly obvious here is that in all areas of filmmaking and, indeed life; editing makes sense…
Released on DVD and Blu-ray April 22nd 2013. Review By Robert W Monk.