It's George Romero's birthday today, and to celebrate I figured I talk about one of his films. The film I choose is Knightriders starring Ed Harris. I do remember the film when it first came out in 1981. It was double billed with Romero's "Dawn of the Dead". I remember an afternoon of fun that day when my friend and I went downtown to see both films.
Knightriders isn't a perfect film, and many critics have pointed out at 145 minutes the film does drag, but it still remains one of my favorite Romero films. It's an amazing film and I'm always taken aback by the many different themes Romero tries to cover in the film. In ways the film is ahead of its time. It talks about corporate sponsorship, and being true to oneself. If you listen hard enough you can hear Romeros anthem of independence within the film. Ed Harris who gives a hell of performance in the film as Billy should be noted here that this is one of Harris' first performances on film. Before Knightriders Harris had been working extensivly in television shows such as "The Rockford Files and "Barnaby Jones. But the film is loaded with some good performances and it is a character piece made up of many different characters. The music seems sometimes dated, or out of place, but the feel of the film feels like a throwback to the films of the seventies. Knightriders is a very original film and it has a lot to say for a film that was shot for very little.
Romero came out with Knightriders after his success with "Dawn of the Dead", but instead of zombies we are given Knights on motorcycles. Billy (Ed Harris) plays the king of a small group of troubadours who live and work as people who put on Renaissance type faires. Billy lives by the code of the period, and for him it is more of a lifestyle then a business, but corporate forces are working to split up the troupe and make them an entertainment business. Sure you can put the allegory of big time studios killing the independent filmmaker, but hey the film has knights on motorcycles, and Romero doesn't hit you over the head with the theme of corporate evil against the individual. Instead Romero shows you a group struggling for it's soul, and how friendship & kinship rescue the troupe from falling apart.
To me the film looks like it was fun to make. Romeros wife Christine Forrest is even in it, and she does a pretty good job playing the grease monkey who has eyes for Morgan (Tom Savini). All the regulars are here too. Romero's company as I like to call them are all present. There's John Amplas as Whiteface, Ken Foree, as little John, Scott H. Reiniger as Marhalt, and even Tom Savini as Morgan. Romero does use his repertory of actors on a lot of his films, but here it feels like a family affair. In interviews Romero has said that he had the most fun making "Knightriders" and it shows. Maybe the editing could be tighter, but I attribute the length of the film to Romeros love of the material. The cinematography is by Michael Gornick another Romero crew member who has worked with Romero extensively, and whose photography lends itself to the feel of the film
I feel that Knightriders was a film that was miss marketed when it came out. It was trying to be the action adventure film it isn't. The film or I should say the story is about the characters in the film. That's what I liked most about about Knightriders. Each of the characters in the film I really liked, and I was willing to go with them on their journey. The film speaks to me as a film about a bunch of people who try to survive in a world of conformity, and soulessness. I liked the message, and even though there are some problems with the film I still enjoy taking the trip with them. In that sense Knightriders is a beautiful example of the individual winning against corporate conformity, and I believe it's one of Romeros most important films.