Thursday, March 4, 2010

Romero Week: Knightriders

I won't sugar-coat this one: this is barely a Romero film, at least on the surface.  The film tells the tale of a troupe of men and woman who do motorcycle-jousting at Renaissance Festivals.  Despite the anachronistic nature of it, they do this in full armor.  I know- been there, done that!  You're probably wondering just where a story like this goes.  Do you do it quirky or do you do it with complete and total seriousness?  Well, the closest Romero has done to 'quirky' is casting Dennis Hopper in Land of the Dead, so you know what the answer is going to be.  The film actually stars a young Ed Harris (back when he was merely going bald), Ken Foree and Tom Savini.  Mind you, it also stars about 100 other people, but they are the notable ones.  The key thing to understand is that this movie still has all of the same sorts of themes & motivations that are usually found in Romero films.  Remember this, so little else is the same.  This is...
Due to the nature of the film, this is going to be a somewhat different format.  To cover the entire plot would take four or five paragraphs.  You see, the movie clocks in at 145 minutes long.  So, instead, let's look at the characters and their key plot threads...

* The King (Harris) is driven by a pure, unbridled passion for honor and decency.  He also has a deep-seated fear of someone with a bird emblem, he refuses to sell-out and likes to whip himself.  His biggest opposition is...
* The Black Knight (Savini) who is a cocky, arrogant and brash performer.  He wants to be in charge and to hit the big time.  He also has a love interest that he has sheer apathy towards.  Will he get his way?
* The troupe's Gallahad is a brash young jouster that begins a sudden relationship with a woman at a show.  Within the course of one afternoon, she has left her family to follow the troupe.  Speaking of weird and random...
* Merlin is played by the late Brother Blue & is a weird combination of shaman and real-word doctor.  He dispenses medical aid while also talking about destiny and all of that crap.
* Ken Foree plays Little John.  His role is mostly walking around shirtless and putting up equipment.

* A pair of agents may break up the troupe with their offer of a show in Las Vegas.  What kind of schmuck would sign for that kind of thing?  For the record, this film was made nine years before the Excalibur hotel opened.  Romero = psychic?
* Look for a cameo by Stephen King and his wife as unamused audience members.  I guess Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov were busy.
* A group of bikers that decide to make trouble at the events.  Bikers and knights- who would have thunk it?
* Will the group sell-out?  Will Savini ever figure out that the lady likes him?  Will Harris continue to whip himself?
This movie is good, but it really requires a commitment.  As I said in the beginning, the movie is 145 minutes long!  Unlike a lot of films that are that long, the movie does not have a whole lot of real plot.  Most of the key things- the potential show change, Harris' eccentricity, etc- are set up in the first 30 or 40 minutes and just sort of stew.  It's not a boring film, but it just lacks a real push.  Maybe that's the point, but I don't know.  The problem is that I don't think that the two genres of biker film and knight film really mix well.  The former works because it is about floating free, while the latter requires a constant push forward towards some sort of MacGuffin.  You can't have it both ways, George!  Check this out if you want a Romero film like no other, but a word of warning: this is a Romero film like no other.
Up next, I close out Romero Week with a film about a man who thinks he's a vampire.  Is he?  Why are you asking me?  Oh right.  Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. This is my favorite film from George Romero. I didn't think he could even make a film like this.