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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Knightriders [Blu-ray]

 

(George Romero, 1981)

 

Shout! Factory is coming out with a Blu-ray in July, 2013:

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: MGM

Video: Arrow

 

Disc:

Region: 'B' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:26:31.824

Disc Size: 47,732,251,014 bytes

Feature Size: 40,864,327,872 bytes

Video Bitrate: 32.00 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: April 22nd, 2013

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Commentary: LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

Audio commentary with George Romero, Tom Savini, John Amplas and Christine Romero
The Genesis of a Legend Star Ed Harris remembers his first leading role (13:08)
A Date with Destiny Co-star Tom Savini reflects on Knightriders (12:03)
Medieval Maiden An interview with actress Patricia Tallman (17:43)
Theatrical Trailer (2:27)
TV Spots (:42)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nat Marsh
Collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author and critic Brad Stevens, an archival interview with Romero and a new interview with composer Donald Rubinstein, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Made after the zombie classic Dawn of the Dead, George A. Romero s Knightriders is both clearly the work of the same director (there are lots of familiar faces from his other films) and a marked change of tone. There's still plenty of action, but it takes the form of jousting by people wearing full medieval armour... while riding motorbikes. Ed Harris, soon to become a major star, is the leader of a troupe of travelling entertainers trying to live their lives according to the ideals of King Arthur - no easy feat in Reagan's America, where the outside world and its financial realities constantly encroach on their dreams. With a memorably eccentric cast of characters (including make-up effects genius Tom Savini in a major role, and a cameo from novelist Stephen King) and a complex, nuanced script, Knightriders is Romero's warmest and most personal film to date.

 

 

The Film:

Knightriders may well be the only cycle flick ever to be played out in suits of armor. A hardcase motorcycle gang led by Ed Harris has found itself a neat money-making gimmick. Dressed as the knights of the round table, the cyclists pick up a few bucks at local "renaissance" fairs, selling handicrafts made by the more talented members of the gang. Harris' great rival is Tom Savini, who has his own band of "black knights." Keep an eye out for a chucklesome unbilled bit by novelist Stephen King.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

When first shown in Britain at the London Film Festival, Knightriders was met with bewilderment, largely because it was such an anomaly within the Romero canon. In the light of his later aberrations, it looks more to the point now. The tale of a latter-day motorbiking King Arthur and his noble knights, who stage medieval jousts, it's a genuinely idiosyncratic exercise in anachronism, as well as scoring a few telling points about the nature of role-playing in modern America. Romero's regular effects man Tom Savini (later a director in his own right) features in the cast, as does scribbler Stephen King - surely the most macabre sight in the movie - in a boozy cameo.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Knightriders gets a 1080P transfer to Blu-ray from Arrow in the UK.  The 2.5 hour films is solidly in dual-layered territory and has a strong bitrate. There is some inconsistency with certain sequences sharper than others but I don't dispute that this is similar to the original. Most of the day-lit outdoor sequences are impressive and support some minor depth in the 1.85:1 frame.  It's pristinely clean showcasing some hi-def detail - I suspect that this Blu-ray probably looks like exactly the theatrical version of the film Knightriders and we will compare to the Shout! Factory Blu-ray edition released later this year (HERE).

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The audio is transferred via a linear PCM 2.0 channel at 1536 kbps. Donald Rubinstein composed the original music (as he did with Romero's Martin.) Separation surround for some of the motorcycle crashes would have seemed appropriate but the true stereo exports depth in the aggressive sequences. There are optional English subtitles (see sample) and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

The audio commentary track dates back from Anchor Bay’s 2000 US DVD release, but that’s not a deficit since Romero and company commentary tracks on other releases have proven entertaining and worthy of repeat listening; and this track – which also features actors Tom Savini and John Amplas (MARTIN), producer Christine Romero, and film historian film historian Chris Stavrakis (brother of stunt coordinator Taso Stavrakis) – is no exception. The running theme throughout the other extras of Romero “fighting the dragon” (i.e. commercial producers and distributors) is breached first here. Romero alumni are pointed out as they appear onscreen (including “archery consultant” Bill Hinzman [NIGHT’s cemetery zombie], and at one point they ask if David Early – who died last month – is still alive), and the commentators also make mention of people they couldn’t get (for instance, Morgan Freeman – who disliked Romero’s writing of black characters – for the role eventually filled colorfully by the now-late Brother Blue, as well as an auditioning Laurence Fishburne). They also point out an onscreen appearance by vocal artist Cynthia Adler (who narrated the English version of the French animated cult film FANTASTIC PLANET). Since the film is almost two-and-a-half-hours, there’s room for all to contribute and it proceeds at a brisk pace

Star Ed Harris appears in a brief interview in which he discusses his beginnings as a film actor (he was also doing stage at the time) with a bit part in COMA, television roles, and a larger role in the Charles Bronson film BORDERLINE (the casting director of which was a school chum of producer Christine Romero). He was attracted to the role because had already done some Arthurian roles on the stage, and he does not recall having to audition for Romero. In his interview, actor/effects artist Tom Savini recalls the project’s origins (the title had to be changed from just KNIGHTS because John Boorman had registered the title for the project that would become EXCALIBUR) and sheds some light on his stage background (doing both make-up and major roles as an actor, sometimes simultaneously, including King Arthur in a production of CAMELOT). Usually working as an effects artist and stuntman, Savini recalls Romero constantly warning him that he had to be more careful with the fight scenes because he was primarily one of the leading actors in this film and not a background player or crew member. He does share Stevens’ interpretation of the film’s themes as they relate to Romero’s experiences with producers and distributors. He also discusses the stunt work, the real injuries, and the adjustments made to the props and motorcycle equipment.

Another welcome interview participant is actress/stunt performer Patricia Tallman (who would move on to play one of the leads in Tom Savini’s Romero-scripted remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD). She went to school in Pittsburgh but auditioned for Romero in New York where she had gone to become an actress (and would make her debut in front of the camera in this film back in Pittsburgh). She describes Romero as the “perfect director for a new actor” and how she became interested in stunt work by watching the performers in the film. She also refers to the film’s thematic core as Romero’s “struggle between the creative and the commercial”. She also her discusses some of her subsequent roles as a stunt performer and actress (including the NIGHT remake). The discs are rounded out by the American theatrical trailer, and two TV spots.

The set also includes the aforementioned thirty-five page booklet which includes the Stevens essay as well as a recent interview with composer Donald Rubenstein (conducted by Calum Waddell) who also discusses his soundtrack for MARTIN as well as films Romero wanted him to score. The booklet also includes a 1981 article on Romero from the periodical “American Film” with quotes from the director as well as Stephen King (who wanted Romero to do SALEM’S LOT before it was sold to television, and was also at the time in the planning stages with the director for a feature film of THE STAND). The reverse of the cover insert features the original poster art. -
Eric Cotenas

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Knightriders is odd for Romero but if you accept it for what it is without expectations - it's a cool little film - a compelling 'mixed-bag'. Ed Harris great. The Arrow Blu-ray provides a strong a/v presentation with very appreciated supplements. Fans of the director should probably giving strong consideration even though it is not pigeon-holed into his marquee genre. 

Gary Tooze

April 9th, 2013

Shout! Factory is coming out with a Blu-ray in July, 2013:


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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