Monday, September 25, 2017

Short Attention Span Review: Knightriders (1981)

Short Attention Span Review: Knightriders (1981)

As a teen, I didn't know quite what to make of George Romero's Knightriders, a fascinating character study that stands as perhaps his most quixotic production.  That's saying something, for while he will always be best known for his gory shockers and his role as the man who put zombies on the map in a big way, he produced a few headscratchers (to include pictures like Martin and Season of the Witch) along the way.  I wanted more of the jousting atop roaring motorcycles and the daredevil flair that Tom Savini brought to the picture as Morgan.  I didn't quite get Billy as portrayed by Ed Harris, the king of the medieval troupe that has traded horses for motorcycles that Knightriders focuses on.  Billy isn't interested in stardom or money, and his devotion to a peculiar but noble set of ethics may even trump his concern for those who look to him for leadership.  In my youth, he seemed to be a bit of a lunatic whose zeal clearly surpassed his logic or compassion, and I may have yearned to see him dethroned--I note this despite the fact that the valiant yet suitably heartbreaking conclusion to the piece didn't sit well with me at the time.  Upon further review, I still enjoy Savini's quality performance and Morgan's perfectly reasonable yearning for gratification and publicity.  Yet Billy's inspired devotion and refusal to compromise in a world that grinds such valiance into dust now strikes me as a far more worthy centerpiece for the tale, and Ed Harris certainly nailed his first true leading role with the sort of magnificence that is worthy of a king.  I also found that ending to be absolutely perfect, and eerily reminiscent of the equally fitting climax that brought Vanishing Point to an end a decade before this film's release.  Lest I slight everyone else involved, there is little to complain about so far as the technical aspects and supporting cast are concerned.  Knightriders is far from a lavish production, but the cast is game, the stunts are lively, and the one and only George Romero does an exceptional job of bringing this unconventional saga to life in riveting fashion.

Final Grade: B

Savini is surprisingly good in one of his biggest parts, but Ed Harris shines, putting his formidable talent on full display long before he would become a legitimate star.

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