Blu-Ray Rating: ****

Reviewed by: David Graham

Read David Graham's film review of Knightriders

It’s a pleasure to see Knightriders finally get such a respectable release on dual format Blu Ray and DVD, from masterful retro label Arrow. They may have downscaled their luxurious packaging, but the quality remains, with the usual reversible sleeve offering great and wildly different new and period art as well as an extensive booklet featuring in-depth interviews with composer Rubinstein and director Romero (archival), plus worthwhile retrospective contextualising from Brad Stevens.

The A/V presentation is stunning for a low-budget film of this age – there’s a nice level of soft grain with no DNR, and aside from a fuzzy opening scene (this may have been deliberate on the director’s part), the picture is pristine with vibrant colours and sharp contrast. The rousing soundtrack is showcased to great effect, and the bike revs and dialogue come through crystal clear. The DVD is actually pretty close in quality to the Blu Ray – the remastering Arrow have done is immense.

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A group commentary from 10 years ago features Romero, Savini, Christine Forrest and John Amplas recounting the camaraderie and communal spirit felt during the shoot, offering up many insightful anecdotes (Romero and Forrest got married on the last day of shooting!) and assisting the viewer in spotting the myriad Romero regulars who crop up all over the shop. Their affinity with the actors is clear; almost all of them have kept in touch, and it’s heartening to hear the different directions they’ve all gone in to varying degrees of success (as well as her time as a Star Trek/Babylon 5 pin-up and her outstanding central turn in Savini’s 1993 Night Of The Living Dead remake, Tallman has become an in-demand stuntwoman, doubling for the likes of Laura Dern in Jurassic Park).

Romero offers up several intriguing reflections on the racial aspect of his work; one telling tale recounts how Morgan Freeman auditioned for the Merlin role but apparently only to give the open-minded director flack over his representation of the African-American characters (remember his NOTLD cast a black actor in a role not written with one in mind, purely on the strength of his audition). He also ruefully confirms the extent of the physical peril his performers and stunt-people put themselves in, while communicating the pressures he felt as a director to keep his sprawling saga within schedule and budget without sacrificing his integrity (the initial cut apparently ran to more than 15 hours!).

The four speakers have an engaging rapport and there’s never a dull moment, but the new solo interviews with Savini, Tallman and especially Ed Harris are perhaps even more riveting. They each have an enduring fondness for the film and their time making it, as it represented the first major role for each of them, something they seem eternally grateful to George for. It’s interesting to note how much Romero allowed them to introduce their own ideas and personalities into the project – Tallman and Savini were both personally responsible for some of their characters’ most memorable moments, and the actors remain thankful for their input being appreciated, something they found to be rare in subsequent interactions with other directors.

There’s also the usual TV spots and theatrical trailer, which hilariously exploit Romero’s horror pedigree, perhaps another reason the film never caught on at first. Its sincerity and uniqueness has garnered it plenty of fans over the years, though, and this release will definitely delight them as well as convert some newcomers to its moto-jousting cause. Hats off to Arrow once again for delivering such a bumper crop of extras and lavishing such love upon the feature itself. Highly recommended.

Reviewed on: 20 May 2013
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Knightriders packshot
The head of a mediaeval re-enactment troupe begins to lose his grip on reality.
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Product Code: FCD 779

Region: B

Ratio: Codec: MPEG-4 AVC, Resolution: 1080p, Aspect ratio: 1.84:1, Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound: English: LPCM 2.0

Extras: Trailer, TV spots, interviews with Patricia Tallman, Tom Savini and Ed Harris, commentary with George A Romero, Tom Savini, John Amplas, and Christine Forrest, 36-page booklet

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