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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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