Blu-ray Review: KNIGHTRIDERS (1981)

PrintE-mail Written by Joel Harley

Review: Knightriders / Cert: 15 / Director: George A. Romero / Screenplay: George A. Romero / Starring: Ed Harris, Tom Savini, Patricia Tallman / Release Date: April 22nd

Ed Harris, Ken Foree and Tom Savini play a travelling medieval re-enactment group in this little-heard of George A. Romero movie. No, there aren't any zombies.

Despite its fantastic cast and iconic director, Knightriders is not a horror film. It's a complete change of pace for Romero, and a chance to see Foree and Savini play nice guys in a heartfelt drama about men dressed as knights in armour riding around on motorcycles. Given its director, I had expected these men to be catapulted back in time to fight real knights in armour or medieval zombies (in an Army of Darkness type affair) but this wasn't to be either – Knightriders really is just a drama about a troupe of men who like dressing up as medieval knights and riding around on their bikes. And yes, that is Stephen King in the audience.

As a follow-up to Dawn of the Dead, it's an admirable move on Romero's part to avoid typecasting. It's a shame that the resulting film has largely wallowed in obscurity since the 1980s, but it's not difficult to see the reason for that either. At two and a half hours, it's simply far too long. For all it's more entertaining moments, 141 minutes is a long time for a movie about modern day jousters on motorbikes. Bear with it though, and there's much to enjoy.

Following the enormous contribution Mr Romero has delivered to cinema over the years, it's hard to begrudge the man this more personal project. And likewise, we're getting Tom Savini in a rare leading role as a good guy, speeding around on his motorbike, swinging at a fellow warrior with his trusty mace. There's Ken Foree too, as cool as ever. As King Billy, Ed Harris anchors the film. It's a shame Romero never called on him to fight the undead, as he seems to work well with the director here. Amidst the film's dramatic beats, there are also some excellent fight sequences and vehicular carnage. It seems odd to see Tom Savini riding about with a mace and not splitting anyone's head open with it, but Knightriders just isn't that film, no matter how much we might want it to be. On the evidence of this film, it's shocking and unfair that Romero didn't achieve much more mainstream success than he has. The Blu-ray transfer looks incredible – once more Arrow Video have come up trumps with the re-release of an old, overlooked gem. The disc also features interviews with the always engaging Tom Savini and Ed Harris.

Knightriders is an unfairly obscure cult favourite, starring some of genre cinema's finest supporting actors. Ultimately, whether audiences at the time realised it or not, it also proves the point that the great George A. Romero is good for more than just zombies.

Extras: Audio commentary with George Romero, Tom Savini, John Amplas and Christine Romero / Interviews with Ed Harris, Tom Savini and Patricia Tallman / Trailer and TV spots / Collector's booklet


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