Knightriders is an oddity (to say the least); a virtually unknown film by cult director George Romero based on Arthurian legends that follows a troupe of jousting motorcyclists that work the Renaissance Faire circuit. That description–and the airbrushed poster–led me to believe that I was in for a wild ride; and I was, just not the kind I expected… And maybe not even the kind I wanted.
The first forty minutes or so take place at a Faire where Ed Harris (playing the too intense King Billy) and his group of jousting knights compete. It was like I was back at Medieval Times but without the beer, the light show, and the screaming crowds. Of course, these were made up for by the presence of Tom Savini, Duane Jones, lots of gratuitous boob shots, the wonder of Sir Alan's layered hair and Harris's unshaven chest. It's the first of many very long jousting sequences and it won't be the last time you'll be itching for things to wrap up.
Ostensibly, the movie is about outsiders making their own way in life and living by their own code, so a subplot about a grown man coming out of the closet, which at first seems odd and arbitrary (though much of the film is odd and arbitrary), fits right in. This particular group of outsiders, traveling from Renaissance Faire to Renaissance Faire (all apparently in Pennsylvania) rail against the system when and wherever it pushes back. The system is represented throughout the film as the fat cops of a town called Bakersfield; a sleazy business man trying to lure them to bigger and better Renn Faires; a horny TV lady asking them to sell out; and (seriously) at one point they even rail against disco.
It's also just kind of about hobbyists who take their passions a bit too seriously; like if a major LARPer took the codes of yesteryear so seriously that he was driven insane living in modern society…
At least I think that's what it's all about… What can I say? The movie goes off the rails and there were a lot of times that I had no idea what was going on. I can't say with conviction that this is a good movie, but it's a strange one and you'll know from reading this if it's the kind of noble failure you might want to check out. It could have been better–this is my most hesitant recommendation ever–if it had stopped while it was ahead.
For those that find the allure of such an oddity irresistible but find they don't want to sit through it all, SPOILER ALERT:
It ends with King Billy kicking the ass of a police man in a McDonalds, then heading to a school to give a very dangerous real sword to a child before killing himself beneath a truck on the highway.