Knightriders (1981) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs up for one of the best micro-budget films of all time.

Scoop's comments in white:

Knightriders is a terrific independent film directed by George Romero, the " ... living dead" dude. On the surface it is simple. A band of modern itinerant performers re-enacts the jousts of the Arthurian legends, except they compete on motorcycles rather than horses. In addition to the jousting, they have chosen to maintain the trappings and live by the code of honor of King Arthur.

Their traveling act is gradually becoming popular with a wider audience, so the modern commercial world invades their little road show. Promoters want to take them big-time, make them a Vegas act, give them a slick facade, and spiff up their costumes and promotions. Disco music replaces the madrigals, some of the knights pose for magazine covers, etc.

The movie is about how the situation gets resolved.

The movie works on at least three allegorical levels. On the one hand, it shows the deterioration of their ideals in the same way the original Camelot fell. In another sense, it parallels Romero's own mixed feelings about selling out his indie ideals to make Hollywood pictures. And finally, it chronicles the failure of the hippie ideals of the 60's, which were gradually co-opted by the mainstream media and culture, until the symbols remained, but the spirit was dead.

It's not too bad as an action-adventure, either, with some pretty good jousts, which appear to be enacted with rules about halfway between actual jousting rules and the chariot races in Ben-Hur.

It's a unique and worthwhile picture that is must viewing for serious film buffs. I liked it more this time than when I first saw it. and I recommend it with only one major hesitation. It is about two and a half hours long, and it doesn't really have enough content to drive that much screen time, so there are some long static sections.

Notwithstanding the running time, it is a reasonable contender for the title of "best independent film ever made".

Tuna's comments in yellow:

Knightriders was first envisioned by George Romero after attending a Renaissance Faire and seeing the joust. When Romero pitched the project at United Artists, he jokingly said that he was going to put the knights on motorcycles rather than horses. United Artists loved the idea. 

It is the story of a group of performers and artisans that travel from town to town putting on jousts on motorcycles. Not only are they a troupe of stunt performers, but they are also lifestylers, and follow a chivalrous code. The king, Ed Harris, has a monkey on his back, a chip on his shoulder, and a challenger for his authority. The parallels between this film and the Arthurian legends extended even as far as having a Lancelot-like character who has a thing for the queen. The conflict between the king and Morgan pretty much drives the plot.


Several women show breasts.

  • Maureen Sadusk', who was many years (and at least as many pounds) past her prime, brought enthusiasm and a strong sense of erotic, hedonistic abandon to the small role that I found very enjoyable.
  • Amy Ingersoll, as the queen, shows breasts in the opening scene.
  • Amanda Davies shows breasts in a short sex scene
  • Patricia Tallman shows breasts in a dark, outdoor, after-sex scene.

DVD info from Amazon

  • The DVD is side-boxed (black space left and right) to preserve the original aspect ratio, and is a good transfer with good color saturation.

  • The DVD contains a feature length commentary with many of the cast and crew.

The film was released the same year as Excalibur, and Time called Knightriders a better film. For an indie, it has amazing costumes, stunts and score.  With my personal interest in Renaissance Faires, I was predisposed to enjoy this one, and I did. Not only did they have all of the elements of a fair in place, but they also captured the camaraderie and sense of family common to faire participants. The stunt work is top notch, the costuming colorful, there is an early sympathetic gay theme, and some fine performances. It is a little long.

Point of Interest: Stephan King and his wife appeared as Hoagie Man and Hoagie Man's Wife in a crowd scene. It was his first and her only film appearance.

Scoop's notes on the history of English Spelling.

(Exciting fucking topic, eh?)

You may wonder where the odd spelling of Renaissance "Faire" came from.  It is not, as you might otherwise assume, the proper spelling from Elizabethan times. The answer is that it is, more or less, just a name they have chosen to mark their unique identity, ala "Xerox". It should probably be written Renaissance Faire©.

There is a pretty obvious reason why it could not be the proper spelling from Elizabethan times. There was no proper or standard spelling in Elizabethan times. The first significant attempt to standardize English spelling was undertaken by Dr. Samuel Johnson in his 1755 Dictionary, in which he wrote:

When I took the first survey of my undertaking, I found our speech copious without order, and energetick without rules. The ORTHOGRAPHY has been to this time unsettled and fortuitous.

This was true even for common words, but was an especial problem for proper names. In his own time, Shakespeare’s name appears in several variations, including: Shakespeare, Shakespear, Shaksper, and Shakespere. If you can figure out how Shakespeare was spelling it in his own signature, you have better eyes than I have.

The word "fair" was spelled many different ways in Shakespeare's times, but the literati would have spelled it "Fayre", not "faire". In fact, Shakespeare's contemporary Thomas Carew, a metaphysical poet, would have considered "faire" to be absolutely incorrect in this case, because that orthography was associated with another word. He wrote in Cornwall (1602) that Camelford was "a market and Fayre (but not faire) towne". In other words, he pinned down tightly that the capitalized Fayre referred to the noun, and the lowercase "faire" designated the adjective meaning beautiful or pleasant.

The spellings listed in OED for the last three centuries before Johnson's dictionary are as follows:

1467 in Eng. Gilds (1870) 384 In the *feyre tyme ijd.

1489 Ld. Treas. Acc. Scot. (1877) I. 119 A blak horss boycht+in the fayre.

1548 Hall Chron. 122b, The faier, on the day of Sainct Michaell the Archangell, kepte in+the toune of Caen.

1558 - Elizabeth becomes queen

1568 Grafton Chron. II. 431 He+tooke the towne of Peples on their *fayre day.

1577–87 Holinshed Chron. II. 21/2 The+*fairlike markets+kept in Dublin.

1602 Carew Cornwall 122a, Camelford, a market and *Fayre (but not faire) towne.

1603 - Elizabeth dies

1611 Bible Transl. Pref. 12 To neglect a great faire, and to seeke to make markets aftewards.

1657 Reeve God's Plea 166 Merchandize+is the Nations Head-servant+sent out to all the earth, as to a generall Market, and *fairstead to buy her provisions.

1678 Bunyan Pilgr. 122 The Prince of Princes+went through this Town+upon a Fair-day.

1686 Col. Rec. Pennsylv. I. 181 Ye freemen+of New Castle+Requesting a Fare to be kept in yt Towne twice a year.

1708 Lond. Gaz. No. 4398/3 The *Fair~keepers resorting to the Two Fairs held in+Bristol.

1741 Lady Pomfret Let. 21 June (1805) III. 247 The *fair-ground; which is a square enclosure, with+shops of all sorts on each hand.

The four entries in yellow are four famous sources. I mentioned Carew earlier. Holinshed's Chronicles were the source of many of Shakespeare's plots, and I think you have probably heard of Pilgrim's Progress and the King James Bible. Without knowing for sure, one might vouchsafe a guess that "faire" was chosen by the RenFaire people based on the biblical reference, since that is the only source of that spelling from that general time period, but I doubt it. I don't know how many people have actually read Myles Smith's obscure preface to that 1611 edition of the Bible, which is the actual source of that quote above. I know I never have, and never will. The "faire" spelling is not used within the King James Bible itself.

If we pinpoint the Renaissance Faires as being pseudo-Elizabethan, we can start to assemble a meaningful look at the data. There are three written references in Elizabethan times. Two of them spell it "fayre", the other "fair". There is no mention of "faire", except Carew's play on words which proves that "faire" absolutely means something else!

In other words, if people must seek a separate and pretentious identity, apart from the mundane Renaissance Fair (which was perfectly correct in Elizabeth's time, and would still be recognized by the literate people of Elizabethan England if they could come back to life), a truly authentic spelling would be Renaissance Fayre. The "Faire" alternative is a novelty item for the tourists, like those Ye Olde Shoppes in New England.

Tuna's notes on the origin of "Faire"

The modern Renaissance Faire was started by a pair of school teachers (Ron and Phyllis Patterson) in their backyard in 1967. Phyllis came up with the spelling Faire. She was (and still is) a top notch promoter, and was able to grow her "Renaissance Pleasure Faire" from its humble beginnings to a major annual event both in Northern and Southern California. Although this was supposedly an exercise in "living history" there were many such inaccuracies. She begin the practice of calling the fair village a shire, even though a shire would be a large geographical and political entity. A more accurate name for the event, both then and now, would be a "Village Market Fayre". Phyllis also coined the name of the shire as Chipping Under Oakwood, which is a reasonable period English place name.

From those early beginnings, the Faire has reached many states, and there are dozens of Faires in California. The two the Pattersons started are still going on, one run by a corporation in Southern California, and the other a grass roots effort to keep it alive in Northern California. This grass roots effort is my "home Faire" and will be occupying much of my time starting this Sunday through the end of October.

Ron and Phyllis' son, Kevin, is now running his own Faires in Novato, Santa Barbara, Lake Tahoe, and also does an annual Dickens Christmas Faire.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 5.8/10. It could well be higher.
  • It was made for about $1M, got pretty good reviews, but only lasted one week in the theaters.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+ (both reviewers). Tuna says, "This is a strong C+. You know by now if the offbeat subject matter is of interest to you, but even if it is not your kind of film, it is easy to watch."

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