21 April 2013

Knightriders BluRay Review

Considering who wrote and directed it, Knightriders (1981) is not the film you might expect. In fact this action / drama by George A. Romero, better know for his notorious zombie gut-munchers, is rather prosaic nay, dare I say, boring.

The 'Knightriders' are a group of travellers led by Billy (Ed Harris), the self-styled 'King William', who put on medieval tournaments, complete with craft fairs and jousting for the entertainment of local townspeople. However, despite the best efforts of Billy and his friends to live by the rules of a simpler age, the influences of the 20th century world inevitably puts them under increasing strain, blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

Of the nineteen films Romero has directed during his career to date at least fourteen of them could be considered straight horror films. Which is where the problem lies. Film folk - be they actors or directors - often find it difficult to go against the grain when their career seems to have been largely built on a certain style or genre. Since appearing on the international scene with the classic chiller Night of the Living Dead (1968), Romero had established something of a reputation as one of the leading purveyors of visceral, in-your-face horror. Some would say that he should stick to what he does best, which he on the whole has. However when he has taken the odd diversion it's often been been less successful, as with such dubious outings as the comedy / drama There's Always Vanilla (1971). Unfortunately Knightriders also falls into this latter category.

Not that there's intrinsically anything wrong with the film. It's just in retrospect it's somewhat weird and tedious. After a promising opening featuring Harris in a dreamlike forest sequence, the film takes on a more dramatic mantle focusing on the relationships of the travelling group led by Harris, and the difficulties they face as they endeavour to lead their lives in keeping with the ideals of the court of King Arthur. And this is really where the film comes unhinged. It may, like the medieval jousting tournaments which Billy and the boys reenact for the inhabitants of the towns they visit, be mildly diverting for sixty minutes or so, but it rather outstays its welcome at nearly two and a half hours.

Admittedly the film looks good, and is interesting as it stars Harris in his first lead part along with a major role for the wonderfully broody Tom (effects wizard) Savini and cameo appearance by the master of horror, Stephen King. That it also features jousting tournaments on motorbikes is a plus if only for the novelty factor.

Like the idealistic lifestyle which Billy and his troupe strive for, Knightriders is full of good intentions. Unfortunately, as is also often the case, it ultimately fails to reach the exacting standards it sets itself.

Released by Arrow Video on both High Definition Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD, Knightriders comes with a host of extras including cast interviews, theatrical trailer and a reversible cover sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nat Marsh.


Cleaver Patterson

Rating: 15
BD Release Date: 22nd April 2013 (UK)
BuyKnightriders On Blu-ray

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