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Knightriders

By Jim Gay

After years of dominating the midnight circuit with the likes of Night of the Living Dead, Martin, and Dawn of the Dead, George A. Romero took a departure from bona fide horror films to make this naturalistic tale of a traveling troupe of motorcycle-riding jousters. (Think Hell's Angels on Wheels goes to the Renaissance Faire.) While this may sound ludicrous on the surface, the film emerges as a powerful character study. When the success of their jousting tournaments--in which armor-clad bikers go at each other with real lances for the entertainment of county fair crowds--attracts the attention of bigtime promoters, creeping commercialism threatens to spoil their delicately constructed Camelot. The troupe is a mirror of King Arthur's court, complete with its King (Ed Harris), Merlin (Brother Blue), and Morgan le Fay (Tom Savini). Only they ride motorcycles, and try to knock each other off with maces. Ed Harris turns in a topnotch performance as Billy, the focus of the film, who goes progressively nuts as it becomes apparent he's losing his grip on the troupe (unconsciously playing out the final days of Camelot). Knightriders is thoroughly engrossing during the jousting tournaments and whenever Ed Harris is onscreen, but is less successful in-between, when toeing the line of the Arthurian Legend makes the film too mannered. And at 145 minutes, the film could have been trimmed a bit. But why cavil when presented with the spectacle of Ed Harris spinning slowly out of control? Watch for a cameo by Stephen King himself, playing a spectator debunking the jousting tournaments as "all fake," through ample mouthfuls of his hoagie.

 

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FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at Amazon.com - try eBay (see links below)Rated RNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: George A. Romero

Stars: Ed Harris, Gary Lahti, Tom Savani

Released: April 10, 1981

Availability: DVD VHS


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