George A. Romero, mostly known for his horror movies has created a very unique exploitation bikerfilm with the roots in medieval times based on a modern day King Arthur. I honestly wasnīt sure what to think of it the first hour, but somehow it gained on me and Romero has really given the characters proper development and all the side stories enriches the main plotline even if it feels a bit silly at times. Thereīs drama, action, relationship issues and love. But, the film is well over 2 hours and with better editing and a less running time I reckon it wouldīve been a bit better. It feels stretched out for no specific reason and that just falls back on the film in the end. And yes, the film has maybe not the best acting, but Ed Harris shows already here his great acting talent he has refined over the years. "Knightriders" is a film that stands out due to itīs story and plot, but it has its fair share of issues to be fully satisfying.
Kinda bland and lifeless.
So said I during a pub based rant a few years ago, but I'll stick with it - and the man is on incendiary early form in this oddity from George Romero.
The film follows a freewheeling motorcycle gang who make their living as knights in a medieval troupe; jousting and selling their wares wherever will have them. Billy (Harris) is the self-styled 'King' of the group; living according to an Arthurian code and plagued by recurring dreams of a black bird which he believes to symbolize his destiny. Billy's chief rival in the group is 'Black Knight' Morgan (Tom Savini) a showboating type who has his own claim to the throne. Tensions rise when the troupe stir up some serious commercial interest and become unwittingly split into factions.
Harris is brilliant in his role as Billy: at times otherworldly; at others driven and brutally intense. A scene where he threatens a crooked cop on the way out of a jail cell builds up into an astoundingly raw, vital piece of acting. When he finally gets even with the boy in blue, it's a crowd-pleasing moment. The cast is filled out with Romero's recurring stock players: Savini is good and cocky in a larger role than usual and Scott Reiniger and Ken Foree ('Dawn of The Dead's SWAT partners) plus John Amplas ('Martin') round out a multicultural, intriguing gang of characters. Horror titan Stephen King (who'd work with Romero on his next film, 'Creepshow') and his wife also turn up for an amusing early moment.
It's a real change of pace for Romero - with its largely gore-free, often romantic drama - yet some of his recurring themes and ideologies still come into play. The idea of the outsider struggling to integrate - as examined in 'Martin' - is explored further with the 'Knightriders' gang and there are strong senses of counter-culturalism and a disillusionment with authority. Also, the over-riding victory of artistic belief over brash commerce which provides the crux of the gang tension seems to mirror Romero's own integrity in his independent film-making.
Did I mention Ed Harris was the King?