Knightriders – Reviewed by Skids Poppe
Here in Sunny Southern Cal there’s this thing that happens every springtime. It’s called the Renaissance Pleasure Faire (look for more commentary as it comes closer) and it’s all about a group of people who dress up in medieval outfits and sell homemade crafts. It’s sort of like a dark ages garage sale. But what you’ve got to be asking yourself is “what does this have to do with this month’s video review?” Am I right? Thought so.
Anyway, a lot of the brothers tend to show up at this thing, thinking that they’re coming on like the rebirth of King Arthur and the round table knights. Great fantasy, if you can get it. With KnightRiders, George Romero did.
It seems our friend George caught on to this lifestyle choice early on and melded it with the on the road aspect of working a carny. What unfolds as the tape winds through its 147 minutes (that’s two and a half hours for those of you who don’t divide real well, thank god my VCR counts in hours) is the life and times of a travelling kingdom under the leadership of King Billy (what a name for a king, huh?) played by Ed Harris. You know him, he was the self-righteous one in…in…well any film he’s in, he plays the self-righteous one.
On King Billy’s right (I still can’t get over that name. C’mon George, what were you thinking?) stands Merlin, a big, black bald guy with blue butterflies brushed on his brain (wow, did I write that? C’mon Skids, what were you thinking?). To get back (stop it) to the story: Merlin really is the court magician as well as a certified doctor. He keeps the soul and body healthy. Which, in the case of the good king, ain’t an easy task. See, Billy tends to take life (not to mention his kingdom) a bit too seriously and this doesn’t sit well with Morgan, the film’s bad guy.
But after four paragraphs, you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with motorcycles. Puh-lenty. See, these knights don’t ride horses (unless you count the iron variety). They all ride bikes, mostly foreign, and they joust and perform on them as if they werehorses. At each performance, the knights vie (I used it right, look it up) for the championship in a series of jousting runs. The first to get knocked off his bike loses. If both guys get knocked off, then it’s on to hand weapons until one surrenders. The final winner gets the favor of the king.
Now…if the king wants to ride, (or if he’s challenged) someone else has the opportunity to be king. This is the main conflict running throughout all two and a half hours. Morgan (lovingly played by Tom Savini, the best special effects make-up artist working today and close personal friend of George Romero) wants to be king and make a lot of money with the show while Billy wants to keep his fantasy pure. Either way, they’re both going to end up losing something and that’s what makes this worth watching.
The bike stunts are amazing, showing better crashes than some of the crash films I’ve been watching recently, and the girls are all worth looking at. Sure, the film was made in ’81 (when the country still thought of Reagan as competent) and parts of it are dated (especially the outfits) but it’s great. I actually saw this one when it first came out and it’s only gotten better on the small screen (now I can pause to take a leak!). Rent it! or better yet, find a cheap copy and buy it for your own library. I did.
Skids is interested in starting his own kingdom and is accepting applications for queen. If you’ve recently appeared in a calendar, that’s a plus.