Knightriders has been avail­able on home video through­out the years but it had to wait until 2013 to get the roy­al treat­ment it tru­ly deserves.  This year found it earn­ing full-blown spe­cial edi­tion blu-ray releas­es on both sides of the Atlantic.  Shout! Factory did the hon­ors in the U.S. and have turned out an impres­sive disc that gives it a note­wor­thy A/V boost plus a qual­i­ty set of extras.

Things start with an excel­lent new trans­fer of the film that gives the col­ors a new sense of vibran­cy and enhances the over­all detail of the image.  The results make it eas­ier to appre­ci­ate the high lev­el of craft that informs Romero’s home-brewed style of film­mak­ing.  The film’s orig­i­nal mono mix is pre­sent­ed in loss­less DTS style here and it does well by the film’s vin­tage sounds: the dia­logue can occa­sion­al­ly sound a bit clut­tered dur­ing busy sequences but that’s a quirk of the mix and Donald Rubinstein’s excel­lent score comes through nice­ly.

KniRid-bluElsewhere, there are plen­ti­ful extras, old and new.  Carried over from the old Anchor Bay DVD is a fun com­men­tary track fea­tur­ing George Romero, Christine Romero, Tom Savini and his­to­ri­an Chris Stavrakis, plus a brief cameo from John Amplas.  Savini sets the tone for this track ear­ly on when he describes the film’s shoot as “the great­est sum­mer imag­in­able”: it’s over­flow­ing with warm cam­er­aderie that allows the lis­ten­er to feel like their hang­ing out with the par­tic­i­pants at a get-togeth­er, with plen­ty of anec­dotes exchanged about the cast and crew.  The end result touch­es on a lot of anec­dotes men­tioned in the inte­views else­where on the disc but fans will want to hear it for its fly-on-the-wall qual­i­ty.

The new mate­ri­al of the extras is rep­re­sent­ed by a trio of inter­view fea­turettes from Red Shirt Pictures. “Conscience Of The King” is devot­ed to Ed Harris, who recalls what an impor­tant learn­ing expe­ri­ence this movie was for him as a film actor.  He offers a sym­pa­thet­ic appraisal of Romero as a stand-alone artist and mar­vels at how he “cre­at­ed a world” for the shoot­ing of the film.

Code Of Honor” is an inter­view with Romero.  Fittingly, it is the length­i­est of the three fea­turettes and gives the auteur plen­ty of room to reflect on both the grat­i­fi­ca­tion and the sor­row the project brought him.  He talks of the chal­lenges of shoot­ing the film, a strange and sad expe­ri­ence he had audi­tion­ing Morgan Freeman for the role of Merlin and his dis­ap­point­ment in how the film was han­dled when UFD brought it to the­aters.  On the hap­pier side, he speaks fond­ly of the film’s small but loy­al fol­low­ing and offers warm tales of his cast mem­bers, includ­ing how he fought to get Savini a lead­ing role.  The most inter­est­ing bit is his admis­sion of how King Billy and his fix­a­tion on hon­or­ing his own ide­als rep­re­sents how Romero was act­ing at this post–Dawn stage of his career.

Memories Of Morgan” offers a nice closer to the fea­turet­te trio, allow­ing Tom Savini to wax nos­tal­gic about his best act­ing role.  He dis­cuss­es how the char­ac­ter offered a vehi­cle for his own inter­ests (like fenc­ing and motor­cy­cles) and tells fun tales of the wild shenani­gans at the hotel where the group stayed.  He also offers a touch­ing account of the film’s mem­o­rable “pass­ing of the crown” scene.

There is also a behind-the sce­nes reel of stunt footage tak­en from Savini’s home video archive.  It shows just how real most of the stunts were — and how the cam­era­men took risks in get­ting so close to the action.  The pack­age is round­ed out by a the­atri­cal trail­er and two t.v. spots that show just how chal­leng­ing it was to pro­mote this unusu­al, high­ly per­son­al film: notably, the t.v. spots pure­ly focus on sell­ing it as an action film.

In short, Shout! Factory has put togeth­er an edi­tion that does Knightriders jus­tice.  If you’re a fan or sim­ply curi­ous about this under­ground cult fave, don’t hes­i­tate to pick this disc up.