Shout! Factory / 1981 / 145 mins / R
KNIGHTRIDERS has always been the "odd duck" movie in horror maestro George A. Romero's oeuvre. It's not a horror film; it's not even a fantasy movie. It is a straight-up drama anchored in the real world. Well, "anchored" may not quite be the appropriate word in this case. While there are no supernatural or horror elements to be found and everything happens in the "real" world, our characters strongly try to make their Arthurian legend-based motorcycle roadshow reality. This gives KNIGHTRIDERS a medieval fantasy feel even though it isn't.
King William (Ed Harris), or Billy to his friends, lords over a travelling Society for Creative Anachronism-style troupe. He and his group live by the ideals set in Arthurian legend; have a hierarchy that can be challenged and moved around in and pretty much live their lives on the road earning money by have joust tournaments on motorcycles as a live entertainment show.
That really sums up the story. There are subplots aplenty with the various members of the group, most notably the rivalry between King William and his second-in-command Morgan (Tom Savini), and problems the troupe faces on the road, but that's really it. There is no over-arching story and no real destination the narrative travels towards. For nearly two and a half hours we are basically just hanging around with the group and following them on the road.
This may sound duller than dishwater (and for some it very probably is), but I have always found KNIGHTRIDERS a very comforting film to pop in every now and then. Harris is pure magnetism, echoing the long line of riveting roles he would bring to films of all budgets. Savini is, as always, a ball of fierce bordering-on-psychotic energy that mixes menace and merriment in a very singular way. Add to that several exceptionally well mounted joust scenes and hanging around with the KNIGHTRIDERS is a great way to spend an evening with friends.
Chalk up another "Wow!" looking disc from Shout! Factory. The anamorphic 1.85 transfer is the best KNIGHTRIDERS has ever looked on home video. No, it's not going to look as glossy as the latest Hollywood tentpole hitting Blu-ray, but it looks beautiful. Colors now pop with vitality, detail is sharp and very filmic looking and the source print is flawless.
Sadly, such a dramatic improvement is impossible for the soundtrack (Romero himself doesn't like it but says there just wasn't enough money in the budget to record it properly). What we do get with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is likely to be the best it will ever be: clear dialogue, mediocre ambiance, an excellent score. One more time: this is the best and will probably be the best KNIGHTRIDERS will ever look and sound.
The nice supplement package begins with a great commentary track featuring Romero, Savini, John Amplas and Chris Stavrakis.
Three interview featurettes are must see. The first, "Code of Honor with George Romero," has the writer/director looking back on the production (and his career to a degree) and the problems he faced.
"Memories of Morgan with Tom Savini" has the special make-up effect legend discussing his career with Romero and the fun he had on KNIGHTRIDERS.
"Conscious of the King with Ed Harris" is the coup of this set. Harris gives a current interview looking back at one of his first films and has nothing but warm memories of it.
"Behind the Scenes: The Stunts of KNIGHTRIDERS" is a vintage piece from the films' original release.
The original theatrical trailer and some TV spots round out the supplements.
KNIGHTRIDERS is not for everyone but for those who are fans this is best home video release you are ever likely to see. Recommended!