There is little in this world that I love more than George Romero’s Knightriders. His oddball follow up to Dawn of the Dead resonates with me completely. It’s nearly a perfect movie that I could gush about endlessly. For this collection though, I will choose one ridiculously delightful moment. This moment:
Here’s how it came to pass: A modern day Camelot on motorcycles hosts Medieval Fairs in order to sustain itself (it’s better than it sounds). As a few members of the troupe promote an upcoming tournament, they cross paths with this intense man in a tight red t-shirt. After the excitement of seeing the knights ride through town, the red shirt guy comes to the next tournament. As you can see, he has a wide range of emotions:
This guy doesn’t do anything just a little. When one of the disgruntled troupe members puts on some dance type music before abandoning his post, most people in the audience seem to groove on it, but he takes dancing a step further than most rational human beings would. His dancing is almost as frantic as Crispin Glover’s in Friday the 13th IV. It gets better though. When King Billy (Ed Harris, as intense as ever) shuts down the music, several audience members groan a bit. This isn’t enough for the red shirt guy though. He is downright furious. And since he doesn’t have any lines, he has to express this exclusively through pantomime. Seriously though, silent movie actors would probably have told this guy to tone it down a bit.
Romero must be used to working with extras. His zombie movies are full of background characters who are seemingly desperate to be noticed, but nothing compares to this guy. There is simply no way to not pay attention to him. Never mind the fact that he’s wearing the tightest bright red t-shirt I’ve ever seen, but he’s flailing his limbs around like a lunatic. I’ve been to some events in my life that had me pretty excited, but I’ve never put on a display quite like this. He’s a hazard to anyone standing within a three foot radius.
With Romero’s dry sense of humour, it’s sometimes hard to tell when he’s joking (unless we’re talking about zombie’s having a pie fight) so I wasn’t sure if the fact that this absurd looking man is the focal point of several shots was a gag that had people in stitches during post production. The commentary that has been on every release since Anchor Bay’s first DVD doesn’t shed much light on the matter. Moderator Chris Stavrakis mentions the red shirt guy as a fan favorite but no one else on the track has much to say. It’s interesting to note that they all do have a bit of a chuckle when it is implied that Patricia Tallman’s character, Julie, is going to beaten by her abusive step father.
Regardless of the whether or not Romero was playing this guy for laughs, he’s hilarious. You would have to be a poor humorless soul not to take any joy in the red shirt guy’s frantic convulsions.
What I appreciate about it most though, is that this curious moment doesn’t detract from the rest of the movie. I still find Knightriders to be equal parts thought provoking, moving, and inspiring. Yeah, I laugh at a part that I’m not sure was intentionally funny, but in no way does this take away from the more serious moments. The red shirt guy is a moment of levity in what I would consider to be one of my (if not my absolute) favorite non horror movies of all time.