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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover



Starring: Ed Harris, Gary Lahti, Tom Savini, Amy Ingersoll and Patricia Tallman
Arrow Films
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 22 April 2013

In this contemporary people story, a troupe of travelling players arrive at the edge of town. They consist of King “Billy” William, his queen, a company of knights, various performers, and makers of arts and crafts. For a small fee the pageant puts on an often violent display of jousting - in armour, but on motorcycles rather than horses - and hand-to-hand combat with weapons such as the axe, medieval spiked-mace, and sword. The combatants are happy with their calling, but one knight, Morgan, has ambitions to be king. Furthermore, he has been approached by a promoter, who wants to commercialise the company. Morgan is enticed by the prospect of money, fame and women, and leaves. However, King Billy refuses to sell out his ideals, but when he is jailed for defending one of his company against a corrupt policeman, it seems the close-knit community of knightriders may be coming to an end. King Billy continues to believe that doing the right thing will see them through, and that those which have left will return. But will he be proved right...?

Knightriders is directed by George A. Romero, who is perhaps best known for the horror classic, Night of the Living Dead. This was made in 1980, right after his zombie film Dawn of the Dead, and released the following year, at the same time as the much better known John Boorman movie, Excalibur. But Knightriders isn’t a straightforward retelling of the Arthurian tale. Instead, it is a modern era reinterpretation of the concept. When you first start to watch this film you’re tempted to think it a little silly; however, the more into the 147 minute running you get, the more realisation takes hold that this is all about honour, truth (as much to others as to yourself), and living life by a code. The ideals of King Arthur and Camelot are in place, and Morgan betrays Billy’s trust, as Lancelot betrays Arthur.

Ed Harris, Star of a host of blockbuster movies, such as Apollo 13, The Truman Show, and one of my favourites, The Abyss, plays his first key role here as King William. He puts in a sterling performance to the point that you can’t really think of anyone who could have played the part quite so well. The part of Morgan is played by visual effects artist Tom Savini, and it’s surprising how good he is. Special mentions should also go to Brother Blue who brilliantly understates his performance of a Merlin closer to a witch doctor than a wizard, and to Patricia Tallman, whose character stands up to her controlling slob of a father and hooks up with one of the knights. Other viewers like myself might know her better as the telepath from Babylon 5, but she has also carved-out a successful career as a stunt double. Fans of horror author Stephen King will be interested to know he has a superfluous cameo role as a greedy heckler.

The ending is rather bitter sweet. Without actually giving away the concluding events, King Billy holds on to his ideals, but comes to realise that his time has passed. We are living in a new age; it’s not necessarily better, but time has to be allowed to move on. So, something very different from what we have seen before, with the weighty actors required to pull off this strange tale. It’s a people story, and a very good one.

Extras include a commentary by George A. Romero, Tom Savini, John Amplas and Christine Romero; separate 20 minute interviews with Ed Harris, Tom Savini and Patricia Tallman; TV spots and Trailer.


Ty Power

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