I have just watched George A. Romero’s KNIGHTRIDERS for the first time in several years, having acquired the Hi-Def version for my birthday recently. It’s my second-favorite George movie, of course . . . but a really close second with DAWN OF THE DEAD, which wins by a nose because it was the film that made me want to make films myself. DAWN, however, doesn’t have the power to bring real soul-wrenched tears like this movie does, which makes it pretty darn special. It’s a film that feels familiar, lived-in, effortless. Even in its weaker, less authentic moments (and there are many), it pushes towards something very important, which is an ideal—which you either get or you don’t. A lot of people think that what lies at the heart of Romero’s obsession is naive and hopeless, but I believe that these types of post-modern fairy tales are the true common denominators of our lives, the things that make us children again, in the face of growing older and pretending not to believe in magic. Films and books like this are probably the closest thing I’ll ever come to owning a god. KNIGHTRIDERS is about a troupe of motorcycle-riding knights who’ve formed a “kingdom” and joust for the crown, while touring around the country, renaissance fair style, to make a buck. The King is Billy, played by Ed Harris in his first career-defining performance, a tough, tortured knight of virtue born in the wrong age, who is not trying to be a hero—but “fighting the dragon!” As his uncompromising Arthurian ideals are challenged and the troupe splits, his own personal code is put to the ultimate test, as he descends into anger, madness and faces his own reflection in a very fractured mirror. In the end, he saves the kingdom, but loses his life. It’s a devastatingly spot-on metaphor for not only Romero’s career at the time, but also something that contains much truth on many other levels. In fact, I must stop now before I go on for a very long time about this brilliant, deeply-felt motion picture which has meant so much to me for more than 30 years. The reason I am actually writing this now, tears fresh on my face, is because I actually saw something I’ve never seen before during this recent viewing, thanks to the new-and-improved High-Def picture. How amazing is that? When you can find new magic in a friend you’ve known most of your life?
These are my god moments.
I share it with you now.
There comes a scene near the end of the film where the “Lancelot” character, Sir Alan, humbles himself before King Billy, having returned from a self-imposed exile to offer his sword in the final battle for the kingdom. It’s the moment when Billy realizes his dream truly works, even in a modern, cynical age. And I am seeing, for the first time ever, Ed Harris as King Billy, actually weeping manful tears of joy for the resurrection of Camelot. Because Camelot is a state of mind, like a dimly-remembered promise in world Billy never made, but the faithful still remember. His fighting spirit lives on in the rain . . .
In that song . . .
Donald Rubenstein’s “I’d rather be a wanderer” has, at many times, been the soundtrack of my life, as all great songs tend to be. It remains in the world as something quite transcendent. I’ll spare you some self-servingly poetic description of the music or a transcript of the lyrics. Just listen, and it will all come clear:
Not a bad bit of magic, if I do say so myself.
We could, every single one of use, take a lesson or two from Donald and King Billy.
This is the 100th posting here at The Express. Spread the love, my lovelies . . .