Knightriders (1981)

Tom Savini on a bike.

Tom Savini on a bike.

And now from the head-curiously-cocked department comes George A. Romero’s Knightriders, a 146-minute long film about jousting bikers, or something. Seriously, there are so many weird elements thrown together in this movie, I’m still scratching my head over it.

Basically, there’s this group of medieval re-enactors who put on shows for folks, but I guess the gimmick is they do it on their hogs? The group is currently led by Billy (Ed Harris) who takes it pretty damn seriously, I guess that’s why he’s the king. But he’s got some pretty serious competition. For one, there’s this square-jawed kid named Alan, who’s totally BFFs with Billy, but still takes issue with some of his policies. Then there’s Morgan (Tom Savini), who doesn’t understand why they should continue to struggle financially and wants to sell out to a big agent who claims he can get the troupe shows in arenas and crap like that.

Ken Foree and Young Squarejaw are suspicious

Ken Foree and Young Squarejaw are suspicious

Billy and Morgan have it out, and Morgan decides to leave the troupe, but Billy’s sure he’ll be back. During the troupe’s existential crisis, some dude comes out as gay, and some woman contemplates her relationship with some dude, and some couple breaks up, and there’s a lot of drama.

I don’t know guys, why did this movie have to be 146 minutes long? And what compelled Romero to choose such a strange metaphorical vehicle (chuckle, snicker) for it? I’m sure I don’t know. I will say, I totally dig what the film is about; that community is valuable and important, and you shouldn’t compromise your ideals and sell out your friends for a little cash. Could it not be said with something other than medieval bikers? Perhaps it’s the inherent fringe nature of such a troupe that makes

Ed Harris will always be king in my book!

Ed Harris will always be king in my book!

them a useful palette for Romero’s picture, but even still I find the choice confounding.

Frankly, it’s not a bad film; it kind of has it all, if you think about it: a great sense of humor, romance, drama, Ken Foree, and, perhaps above all, sexy young Ed Harris. If Knightriders weren’t so terribly, frustratingly long, I might actually recommend it. But about halfway through, the novelty wears off and I found myself mentally pacing around the room. Some folks really seem to like this one, so it could just be my blasted impatience and short attention span that ruined this one for me.


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