Knightriders (1981)

R | 146 mins | Drama | 10 April 1981

Director:

George A. Romero

Cinematographer:

Michael Gornick

Production Designer:

Cletus Anderson

Production Company:

Laurel Entertainment Inc.
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HISTORY

       An article in the 8 Aug 1980 LAT reported that the film was titled Knights and Bike Knights during the initial stages of pre-production, but was changed to Knightriders. The 21 May 1980 Var explained that the initial title Knights had to be changed because writer-director John Boorman was also working on a film based upon the Arthurian legend and had registered the name Knights for his film, which was ultimately released as Excalibur (1981, see entry). The film was also referred to as George A. Romero’s Knightriders.
       The LAT article noted that writer-director George A. Romero had been interested in making a film based on T. H. White’s 1958 novel The Once and Future King for five years, but had been unable to obtain financing until he suggested that the story would be more marketable if the knights rode motorcycles and traditional music was replaced with a “rock score.” Producer Samuel Arkoff reportedly understood the “monetary merit” of this concept, and may have served as a producer but he is not credited onscreen.
       Articles in the 27 Feb 1980 Var and the 26 Jun 1980 HR detailed a three-picture agreement between Laurel Entertainment Inc., a production company led Romero and producer Richard P. Rubinstein, and the United Film Distribution Company. Knightriders, the first production of the deal, would receive fifty percent of its financing from United Film Distribution Company, who would handle domestic distribution. The remainder of financing would be provided by United Artists, ... More Less

       An article in the 8 Aug 1980 LAT reported that the film was titled Knights and Bike Knights during the initial stages of pre-production, but was changed to Knightriders. The 21 May 1980 Var explained that the initial title Knights had to be changed because writer-director John Boorman was also working on a film based upon the Arthurian legend and had registered the name Knights for his film, which was ultimately released as Excalibur (1981, see entry). The film was also referred to as George A. Romero’s Knightriders.
       The LAT article noted that writer-director George A. Romero had been interested in making a film based on T. H. White’s 1958 novel The Once and Future King for five years, but had been unable to obtain financing until he suggested that the story would be more marketable if the knights rode motorcycles and traditional music was replaced with a “rock score.” Producer Samuel Arkoff reportedly understood the “monetary merit” of this concept, and may have served as a producer but he is not credited onscreen.
       Articles in the 27 Feb 1980 Var and the 26 Jun 1980 HR detailed a three-picture agreement between Laurel Entertainment Inc., a production company led Romero and producer Richard P. Rubinstein, and the United Film Distribution Company. Knightriders, the first production of the deal, would receive fifty percent of its financing from United Film Distribution Company, who would handle domestic distribution. The remainder of financing would be provided by United Artists, who would have the foreign distribution rights. The 26 Jun 1980 HR and the 8 Aug 1980 LAT reported that the film was budgeted at $3.5 million and would film entirely in PA’s Allegheny County, near Pittsburgh. The 27 Feb 1980 Var projected a start date of 1 May 1980, however, the 20 May 1980 DV reported principal photography began 12 May 1980. According to the 13 Jun 1980 HR, seventy-five percent of the film’s budget would be spent in PA, filtering approximately $2.5 million into the local economy. The majority of the film’s cast and crew were from PA’s Allegheny County, and the 1,000 background actors were locals. As noted in LAT, Romero was also working with writer Stephen King on future projects during the production of Knightriders . King and his wife, Tabitha King, played small roles in Knightriders as “Hoagie Man” and “Hoagie Man’s wife.” Following Knightriders, Romero directed King’s Creepshow (1982, see entry). A Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike began on 21 Jul 1980 during principal photography of Knightriders, but the film was not closed down because the filmmakers had not received the required sixty days’ notice prior to the start of the strike. An item in the 26 Aug 1980 DV announced the completion of principal photography. As reported in the 8 Aug 1980 LAT, Romero married actress Christine Forrest, who played the character “Angie,” after principal photography was complete.
       The 25 Feb 1981 Var announced that a “rough cut” of the film had been screened the previous week for industry insiders. The 11 Feb 1981 Var reported that Knightriders would be released 10 Apr 1981 in Los Angeles, CA, and FL, and would open in NY and Pittsburgh, PA, on 17 Apr 1981. Boorman’s Arthurian film Excalibur opened 10 Apr 1981, the same day that Knightriders opened in Los Angeles one week prior to its NY release.

      End credits include the following statement: “Produced with the cooperation of: Pa. Film Commission, Fran & Don Porter, Citizens of Fawn Township, Pa., Irvin Shapiro.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
27 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
20 May 1980.
---
Daily Variety
26 Aug 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 1980
pp. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Times
8 Aug 1980
pp. 1, 15.
Los Angeles Times
9 Apr 1981
p. 1.
New York Times
17 Apr 1981
p. 8.
Variety
11 Feb 1981.
---
Variety
25 Feb 1981.
---
Variety
27 Feb 1980
pp, 5, 45.
Variety
21 May 1980.
---
Variety
8 Apr 1981
p. 20.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Starring:
Co-starring
Co-starring
Featuring:
Musician trio:
[and]
With appearances by:
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
United Film Distribution Company Presents
A Laurel™ Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Gaffer
Key grip
1st asst cam
Still photog
2d unit cam
2d unit cam
2d asst cam
Grip
Grip
Grip
Grip
Gaffing services
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst to prod des
Asst to prod des
Asst to prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Const coord
Prop master
Prop mistress
Scenic painter
Sets and props
Sets and props
Sets and props
Sets and props
Sets and props
Sets and props
Sets and props
MUSIC
Orch cond by
Mus supv
Solos by
Solos by
Solos by
Solos by
Solos by
Addl arr
Mus copying
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Main title des
MAKEUP
Makeup asst
Hairstyling
Hairstyling
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Asst to the prod
Loc mgr
Prod coord
Scr supv
Local casting
Casting asst
Loc pub
Transportation coord
Motorcycle coord
Mechanic
Mechanic
Birdhandler
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod controller
Accounting asst
Accounting asst
Accounting asst
Auditor
Auditor
Office mgr
Prod secy
Insurance
Beeper communications
One sheet art
STAND INS
Stunt coord/Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
SOURCES
SONGS
"I'd Rather Be A Wanderer," music and lyrics by Donald Rubinstein, sung by Donald Rubenstein
"Signifying Monkey," music and lyrics by Oscar Brown, Jr.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Knights
Bike Knights
George A. Romero's Knightriders
Release Date:
10 April 1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 10 April 1981
New York opening: 17 April 1981
Production Date:
12 May--August 1980
Copyright Claimant:
United Film Distribution Company, Inc. & United Artists Corporation
Copyright Date:
10 August 1981
Copyright Number:
PA113064
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
146
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Billy is the “king” of a traveling Renaissance fair troupe that specializes in knights jousting on motorcycles, and adheres to a code of behavior based on King Arthur and his knights. As the fair opens in a small town, a local girl, Julie, is almost run over by a knight, Alan, who offers her a motorcycle ride. Though the sheriff has issued a permit for the fair, two corrupt police officers demand a pay-off to leave the troupe alone. The black knight, Morgan, and the “friar,” Tuck, want to pay, but Billy refuses and takes his place on the throne by his queen, Linet. The tournament begins and the knights joust one on one with lances. Morgan’s round ends in a tie, and the rematch allows for a change of weapons. Morgan chooses a mace and knocks his opponent down. Although wounded in a previous tournament, Billy fights Morgan and is knocked off his bike by the mace. The other knights ride in to rescue their king before Morgan can demand Billy’s crown, and Alan is victorious over the black knight. In Billy’s tent, his wounds are tended by Merlin, the group’s wizard and doctor, and Billy confides that he had another recurring dream of a black bird. Later, a boy, also named Billy, asks the king to autograph his picture in Cycle Rider magazine. Billy was unaware of the article and refuses to sign, claiming it does not reflect his group’s values. The fair includes an opportunity for attendees to joust with the knights, but several locals race ... +


Billy is the “king” of a traveling Renaissance fair troupe that specializes in knights jousting on motorcycles, and adheres to a code of behavior based on King Arthur and his knights. As the fair opens in a small town, a local girl, Julie, is almost run over by a knight, Alan, who offers her a motorcycle ride. Though the sheriff has issued a permit for the fair, two corrupt police officers demand a pay-off to leave the troupe alone. The black knight, Morgan, and the “friar,” Tuck, want to pay, but Billy refuses and takes his place on the throne by his queen, Linet. The tournament begins and the knights joust one on one with lances. Morgan’s round ends in a tie, and the rematch allows for a change of weapons. Morgan chooses a mace and knocks his opponent down. Although wounded in a previous tournament, Billy fights Morgan and is knocked off his bike by the mace. The other knights ride in to rescue their king before Morgan can demand Billy’s crown, and Alan is victorious over the black knight. In Billy’s tent, his wounds are tended by Merlin, the group’s wizard and doctor, and Billy confides that he had another recurring dream of a black bird. Later, a boy, also named Billy, asks the king to autograph his picture in Cycle Rider magazine. Billy was unaware of the article and refuses to sign, claiming it does not reflect his group’s values. The fair includes an opportunity for attendees to joust with the knights, but several locals race onto the grounds, steal weaponry, and speed away. The knights give chase and retrieve the weapons, while forcing the errant motorcyclists off their bikes. That night, Billy and Linet argue. Billy does not want to compromise his ideals, but she believes they must waver in their code because the group needs more money to survive. As the troupe sits around a campfire, Morgan admits that he only recently became interested in the Arthurian legend, and Pippin, the group’s emcee, laughs that Morgan had not realized that his namesake, Morgan Le Fey, was actually a woman. Morgan claims that Pippin, himself, is truly a woman, and Angie, Morgan’s girl friend and the group’s mechanic, questions if Pippin is homosexual. Pippin admits he is not sure, but a female knight named Rocky proudly declares she is a lesbian. The two local officers arrive to harass the group and Tuck, intoxicated, drives away in his truck, parking by the bushes where Alan and Julie are making love. The police search Bagman’s trailer, discover marijuana, and want a bribe, but Billy refuses and insists on going with Bagman to jail to witness further police corruption. Although he orders the troupe to wait for his return, Linet conducts everyone to their next location, asking Merlin to wait for Billy and Bagman. In jail, Billy watches from another cell as the officers beat Bagman. Julie and Alan locate the sheriff, who orders the police to release the prisoners, and Billy warns the lead officer that he will return for vengeance. Meanwhile, Angie, Pippin, and Tuck encounter Steve, the group’s lawyer, on the road. He has set up the paperwork at their next site, and is returning to help Billy. When Billy learns the troupe has already moved on, he is furious, but Merlin calms him. Now at home, Julie packs to leave with Alan, and they discover that her mother was beaten by Julie’s abusive father. The next day, while promoting themselves in town, several troupe members meet television producer, Sheila, a photographer named Judy Rawls, and Joe, a promoter with Silver Bullet Enterprises, who are interested in the troupe, and ask to speak with Billy. Upon learning he has not arrived, Sheila turns her attention to Morgan, who assures her that Billy is not the troupe’s only star. On the road, Steve meets Merlin, Billy, and Bagman. As they camp, Steve mentions the promoters’ ability to provide a bigger circuit and more money. Billy refuses to join the “money world,” insisting that he must fight for the ideals of the code. Later, Billy borrows Steve’s motorcycle, and arrives at the fairgrounds as Sheila meets with his troupe. Billy is angry that they are having a council meeting without everyone present. Sheila tells Joe not to worry; Morgan is attractive and can get a group of knights to leave with him. In their tent, Linet tells Billy that she took a chance and followed him, but is uncertain if he is the reason she stays. Outside, Morgan informs the other knights that he deserves to be king and will leave with Joe after the tournament. Angie insists Morgan did not win the crown and refuses to leave with him, betting that he will return within two weeks. Another knight, Bors, feels the troupe is finished and informs Alan that he might leave, too. At the joust, the fights are more vicious than usual and the knights do not wait for Billy’s signal to begin. When someone switches the music from trumpets to rock music, Billy goes to the sound truck to change it. While he is inside, a motorcycle flies free, and misses an infant, but crashes into the baby’s mother. As the woman is taken to a hospital, local motorcyclists rush into the arena to challenge the knights. Pippin tries to explain the competition is over due to the accident, but the bikers ignore him. As the troupe’s knights race into the arena and dispatch the local riders, a male fair worker named Punch asks Pippin to be his lover and Pippin accepts. Billy steps outside, sees an Indian with a black bird on his armor, and feels this is the challenger he has been dreaming about. Knowing Billy is hurt, Alan attempts to stop him, but Billy fights back, repeatedly knocking Alan off his motorcycle until he yields. Billy faces the Indian in a wild battle. Billy wins, but is injured and collapses. Afterward, Morgan and several knights depart, and Alan leaves with Julie and Bors. The Indian remains with the troupe at the campsite while Billy heals and they wait for the defectors to return. At Sheila’s home, Tuck romances Judy, while Morgan has sex with Sheila, and then learns her rich boyfriend is returning soon. Joe has no use for Tuck, but orders new outfits and motorcycles for Morgan and his men, and stages a Las Vegas, Nevada, photo shoot where Morgan models a metallic bathing suit. While visiting friends, Alan ponders his lifestyle, then returns Julie to her home and leaves with Bors. In Las Vegas, Morgan and Tuck return to the knights’ hotel room to find the men are drunk and fighting. Outside, Alan and Bors confront Morgan, insisting that he cannot break off from the troupe and there can only be one king. Alan and Bors ride back to camp, followed by Morgan and the other knights on their new motorcycles, and Tuck and Judy in his truck. The troupe is excited to see them and Alan promises to fight for the king again, if Billy will let him. Joe confronts Morgan about his contract and is rebuffed, but stays to watch the knights hold a private tournament. After a series of battles, Morgan defeats Alan to win Billy’s crown. As Morgan crowns his queen, Angie, Linet embraces Billy, then steps off the throne into Alan’s arms. Billy says goodbye, then drives off with the Indian. He fulfills his promise to fight the corrupt policeman, and finds young Billy, giving him a sword instead of an autograph. Later, as Billy, still weak from his injuries, imagines he is a knight on a steed, he is hit by a truck. The troupe gathers for Billy’s funeral, and a black bird watches them ride away, led by King Morgan. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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