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Knightriders (1981) - Blu-ray Review

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Knightriders 1981 - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

Writer/director George A. Romero (The Night Of The Living Dead series) might have made his name with the undead but he doesn’t always wear the horror helmet.  With Knightriders, a King Arthur-style Renaissance Fair movie complete with jousting on motorcycles, he allows a bit of fun to creep into an otherwise serious idea of living a free and easy life outside of corporate corruption circa 1981.

Really, that’s what it is about.  Living a life outside of the mainstream and surviving crooked cops and large amounts of money being thrown at you are the core ideas at work here.  Clinging to it is a chivalrous attitude that suggests a more romantic side to Romero’s imagination.  Sure, he might take the idea and bend it to the absolute breaking point with 144 minutes, but Knightriders, thanks in part to Ed Harris, is still entirely watchable … even if it isn’t the cool thing to admit.

Billy (Harris) fancies himself to be a modern day King Arthur.  He and his rag-tag travelling renaissance group put on shows – including jousting on motorcycles in armor – for paying customers.  He doesn’t sign autographs.  He’s deadly serious about this traveling medieval society as a way of life.  He lives by the code of chivalry but his rag-tag group of performers are growing uneasy and facing huge financing issues.

Led by Morgan Le Fay (Tom Savini), the dissidents plan a revolt and look for answers with another leader and a big-money promotions agency who promises them the moon.  Will the fractured group be able to survive Billy’s ambitious ideas for how to make a life or will Fay have his way and sell out to The Man?  These are the questions Romero’s competent script asks the viewers.

While there are archetypes present, Romero’s script refuses to stereotype the characters.  He lends a sympathetic ear to every role here.  The villains aren’t that bad at all.  They’re just misguided and, because the film offers it, their side must be heard.  This is a tragedy and shows – with a battle royale finale – that some men are born out of their time.  The film never sells itself short – look for the cameo from Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha – and fully commits to its well-earned ending … even if it is entirely too long.

Knightrider has a lot of stunts and most are fantastically realized.  It’s obvious that Romero is trying to fulfill a vision of the movie on a shoestring budget and, while I’m sure that’s frustrating, he succeeds where others continue to fail.  The film is flawed only in that it can’t – due to limited means – depict a world as conflicted as some of its characters are.  The poignancy of Romero, a man comfortable with being an outsider, bring this tale to life is not lost on the viewer.

For fans of cult movies, Knightriders is as close as we’re ever likely to get to an epic film from renowned horror auteur George A. Romero.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Knightriders - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
146 mins
Director
: George A. Romero
Writer
: George A. Romero
Cast:
Ed Harris, Gary Lahti, Tom Savini
Genre
: Action | Adventure
Tagline:
The Games...The Romance...The Spirit...Camelot is a state of mind.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Way you get knocked around, you're bound to have some weird dreams, Billy."
Distributor:
United Film Distribution Company (UFDC)
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 10, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 26, 2013

Synopsis: A medieval reenactment troupe find it increasingly difficult to keep their family-like group together, with pressure from local law enforcement, interest from entertainment agents and a growing sense of delusional from their leader.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Knightriders 1981 - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 26, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Shout Factory polishes Knightriders’ armor and blows Anchor Bay’s lackluster DVD release out of the water with a restoration that is damn near revelatory.  Sharp colors are present throughout.  This puppy is anything but dated and lifeless.  Flesh tones are finally accurate, and the grass and foliage look green rather than scorched.  Clarity and fine object detail are strong.  Okay, so the motorcycle engines don’t sound the way they should but blame the budget on that one because the 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack in two-channel mono does the best it can.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There’s a great cast and crew commentary with George Romero, Tom Savini, and a few others.  It is a fun, funny, and informative commentary and George and Tom are easily the stars of the show.

Special Features:

The special features on this new Blu-ray from Shout! Factory include a trio of new interviews.  The first is with Ed Harris. The second is with director Romero and the third one is with Tom Savini.  There is also a look behind the scenes bit on the stunts from the film that’s mostly a collection of home movies shot while the movie was being made.  A trailer and some TV spots rounds out the collection.

  • Ed Harris Interview (8 min)
  • George A. Romero Interview (17 min)
  • Tom Savini Interview (10 min)
  • Behind-the-Scenes (8 min)
  • Trailer & TV Spots

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