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4.5 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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(Jul 11, 2000)
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Editorial Reviews

After years of dominating the midnight circuit with the likes of Night of the Living Dead, Martin, and Dawn of the Dead, George A. Romero took a departure from bona fide horror films to make this naturalistic tale of a traveling troupe of motorcycle-riding jousters. (Think Hell's Angels on Wheels goes to the Renaissance Faire.) While this may sound ludicrous on the surface, the film emerges as a powerful character study. When the success of their jousting tournaments--in which armor-clad bikers go at each other with real lances for the entertainment of county fair crowds--attracts the attention of bigtime promoters, creeping commercialism threatens to spoil their delicately constructed Camelot. The troupe is a mirror of King Arthur's court, complete with its King (Ed Harris), Merlin (Brother Blue), and Morgan le Fay (Tom Savini). Only they ride motorcycles, and try to knock each other off with maces. Ed Harris turns in a topnotch performance as Billy, the focus of the film, who goes progressively nuts as it becomes apparent he's losing his grip on the troupe (unconsciously playing out the final days of Camelot). Knightriders is thoroughly engrossing during the jousting tournaments and whenever Ed Harris is onscreen, but is less successful in-between, when toeing the line of the Arthurian Legend makes the film too mannered. And at 145 minutes, the film could have been trimmed a bit. But why cavil when presented with the spectacle of Ed Harris spinning slowly out of control? Watch for a cameo by Stephen King himself, playing a spectator debunking the jousting tournaments as "all fake," through ample mouthfuls of his hoagie. --Jim Gay

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Ed Harris, Gary Lahti, Tom Savini, Amy Ingersoll, Patricia Tallman
  • Directors: George A. Romero
  • Writers: George A. Romero
  • Producers: David E. Vogel, Richard P. Rubinstein, Salah M. Hassanein
  • Format: Color, Letterboxed, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: July 11, 2000
  • Run Time: 146 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305808082
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,681 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Knightriders" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 22, 2000
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I discovered this film during the early days of HBO, when the mix was blockbusters and movies the networks did not want. George A. Romero's 1981 film "Knightriders" falls into the latter category. This is about a group of free spirits who combine a Renaissance Faire with knights in armor jousting on motorcycles between the good knights and the bad knights. It quickly becomes apparent that the personas of the main characters follow those of the legend of Camelot: the King (Ed Harris), Lancelot (Gary Lahti), Merlin (Brother Blue), and Mordred (Tom Savini), along with a Genevieve, Galahad and even a Friar Tuck thrown in for good measure. After all, this is a symbolic retelling of the tale and if you want to take it literally you are going to be left behind in the dust.
At the beginning there is a good-natured rivalry between the "good" knights and the "bad" knights. The rules of the kingdom say if Mordred and his black clad gang defeat the King or his champion, there will be a new king. However, there are cracks beginning to show in this idealized world. Crooked sheriffs want a cut of the take, the jousts are starting to get out of hand, crowds are becoming unruly, and then a group of promoters come in and want to take over the group. This exploitational commercialism breaks the group apart until they all see the error of their ways. The game has to be played out by the rules, no matter what the outcome.
The heart and soul of this film is Ed Harris as Billy, who takes the fable too seriously. Ultimately this curses his character as much as it ennobles him. Billy's "defeat" is proof of his final victory, that the code he believes in is valid and the world he has created will work, even without him.
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Format: DVD
Occasionally, I discover a B movie that is so off the wall, so cleverly quirky, and so perfectly original that it earns a place in my imagination and in the ranks of my favorite films. `Knightriders' is such a film. After the briefest of runs on the drive-in theater circuit, it moved directly to late night airings on Cinimax in the early `80s, and there earned a small cult following. Now, with this fine DVD presentation, this odd B movie masterpiece should continue to garner new fans.
`Knightriders' tells the tale of a troupe of odd ball outsiders and their low budget traveling Renaissance fair. The main event in this fair is a genuine jousting tournament between armor clad knights mounted on motorcycles. The troupe is composed of a mismatch of hippie types who dig the romance of the medieval mythos, and adrenalin junkies who are only in it for the bikes and the action. The figure who holds them all together is King Billy (Ed Harris), the group's founder and star, who is driven by an obsessive, nearly messianic vision of the importance of their endeavor. The group's idyllic existence starts to fall apart as financial difficulties and trouble with red neck police play havoc with their ability to continue, and they start to split between those who are committed to the purity of King Billy's vision, and those who want to pursue a more practical and commercial direction for their show. A final showdown between those knights loyal to King Billy and the rogues led by Morgan the Black Knight (Tom Savini) who want to go commercial with their act, is decided by a winner take all grand martial competition between the cycle mounted knights.
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Format: VHS Tape
Back in the 1970's, George A. Romero went to an event of the Society for Creative Anachronism This is a group of folks who study and recreate the middle ages, including the art of combat. At this particular event, something happened that caused a large faction to split off and form Medieval Studies and Restoration, a splinter group. According to legend, Romero said to himself "I gotta make a movie about this!" He went to the sudio heads, but they did not think such a film would have commercial viability. Then in a fit of pique he said "allright, supposing we have them joust on motorcycles?" and that's how the movie got made.
The story of this movie is about a travelling renaissance faire that jousts on motorcuycles. There are two factions, one that is doing it for the Arthurian dream of honor and chivalry, and one that is doing it for the action and the money. The group fractures, but the splinter group winds up realizing that they were missing something, and there is a reconcilliation at the end. People who know the real people from the SCA and MSR and the original events can see similarities in some of the characters and situations on screen to the real people and events.
I had known this movie from this perspective for years. Reading the other reviews here, its good to know it can be taken on more levels, even if you don't know the original story. I find that it can be enjoyed both by people who take it seriously and for camp appeal. There are several story elements that were typical for '70's road movies, such as the troubles with the law, the local girl who joins the group to escape her family, and so forth. The action is not the greatest of all swordfighting movies, but is passable. For flat-out motorcycle/automobile thrills, nothing beats "The Road Warrior" but the stunts here are at least well done and convincing. The meaning and spirit behind this film elevate it above an ordinary action film.
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