Knightriders (1981) Review

Knightriders Although he is known by many as the Godfather of Zombies George A. Romero had a very eclectic output when he first started making movies.

Between his deft and definitive Dead Trilogy lay short movie mash up and Stephen King collaboration Creepshow, the infection insanity of The Crazies and Martin one of the best vampire movies ever made.

There was also an extremely strange yet startling effective movie named Knightriders.

Simply put Knightriders told the story of a traveling modern day motorcycle troupe who live by a strict medieval code. Moving from town to town the close knit knights perform motorcycle jousting while dressed in full armor to red necks and yokels who pay to see the pain the performers put themselves through.

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Although they may play up to the audiences there lifestyle is not an act and lead by their King Billy (Ed Harris in his first feature film) the feudal laws and hierarchy that governs there existence is more important to them all than any pay check.

That is however until a big time producer and promoter comes calling eager to make as much money as possible from their original and unusual brand and exploit it by taking the Black Knight Morgan (effects genius and cult icon Tom Savini) away from the gang to comercialise there ideals and lifestyle.

Knightriders

Packed with familiar faces from previous Romero movies such as Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree and Stephen King in a brief comedy cameo Knightriders is also packed full of Romero’s social symbolism and cultural comment as it spins an action packed story full of bike riding battles which deals perfectly with the very human dilemma of balancing personal beliefs in the every evolving world we live in.

Made in the early 80’s the strange concept works wonderfully with Romero who also wrote the script and story blends biker movie action mayhem and clichés created by films like Easy Rider with an epic spiritual and emotional journey through the medieval philosophies held by the group most strongly by Billy.

Harris is brilliant as the borderline psychotic King whose faith and beliefs are so ingrained and important they close out the real world around him forcing his subjects to question everything when they are offered a chance to actually make money from doing what they love.

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Savini is surprisingly good as Morgan the chainmail Judas tempted by fame and fortune to abandon his fellowship showing a depth of character unseen by audiences familiar with his more recent ridiculous roles in films such as From Dusk till Dawn and Machete.

Packed with trippy 70’s style dream sequences, motorcycle stunts and sword swinging action, gritty urban realism and medieval mysticism mainly courtesy of Merlin played by internationally renowned storyteller Brother Blue, Knightriders includes character driven drama while managing to convey a deeper message and make you think without you realizing, another trademark of many of Romero’s early works.

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The new release by the amazing Arrow is packed with extras including audio commentary with George Romero, Tom Savini, John Amplas and Christine Romero as well as features on Harris, Savini and there co-star Patricia Tallman.

Far from a perfect film Knightriders is an interesting cult oddity that should be seen by a wider audience as it has plenty to offer in entertainment as well as intellectual value.

Movie Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Trailer:

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