George Romero is well-known as the director of such classic zombie films as Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), and other horror thrillers such as Season of the Witch (1972) and Creepshow (1982).
But did you know he also directed a movie about the members of a travelling troupe who dress up as knights and stage jousting tourneys? On motorcycles?
Well, he did. It’s called Knightriders and it was released in 1981. It stars a very young Ed Harris, Patricia Talman of Babylon 5 fame, Donald Genaro, that blood-sucking lawyer from Jurassic Park playing a blood-sucking agent in this movie, and Tom Savini, who’s not only an actor, stuntman and director but also did the makeup and special effects for many of Romero’s films.
I watched the Blu-Ray last night. I’d seen the movie before quite some time ago. but I remembered I had enjoyed it.
It’s a quirky, off-the-wall kinda of movie that, while I was watching it, I was like really? Seriously?
But it was a fun movie. And it had heart to it. The story is pretty basic. Harris’ character is Billy, the “king” of this travelling troupe of armor-plated motorcyclists, which includes not only Billy’s knights, but the black knights led by Morgan who’s played by Savini. The troupe travel from one small town to another staging jousting tourneys on motorcycles. For most of those who travel with the group, including the merchants who sell their wares, it’s a job. A gig.
But not for Billy. In his heart he believes in the ideals of chivalry and honor the knights of Camelot embody but those ideals are threatened by a sleazy agent who wants to take the act national.
Even Romero, in an interview included in the bonus features, admits it’s not one of his more successful movies. But this movie has heart and, despite its dated look and equally dated dialogue, I very much enjoyed it. Plus the character of Merlin, who’s the troupe’s resident physician, patching up the cyclists after their jousts, and played by the late African-American actor/storyteller Brother Blue, is a lot of fun. Probably one of the most entertaining Merlins I’ve ever come across.
The movie is a bit long, running at over two hours, but that’s a minor quibble.
I give it four popcorn boxes, if only for the sheer audaciousness of putting knights on motorcycles. 🙂