11/28/09

Star Knight (1985): Kinski + Keitel × Sci Fi ÷ Fantasy = More Than You Expect

It’s been a couple of weeks since last we checked in with our old friend Klaus Kinski. So tonight, I want to take you on an amazing journey with Klaus, Harvey Keitel, and an alien who came all the way across the Universe to get nearly literally nagged to death. I’m getting ahead of myself though, but this is one I’m really excited to talk about. Not only does it have one of Kinski’s strangest performances, it is also one of the best pieces of trash cinema this here Bugg has laid his eyes on in a while. Now I’m sure some of you know the film, but this was my first viewing, and it will be the first of many, many times. Rarely does a movie go from my hand, to the player, and onto my shortlist of favorite watches, but Star Knight somehow did it.

As the film begins, Boecius (Klaus Kinski), the magician asks the gods to summon an angel to give him “the secret of secrets”, the way to eternal life. The nearby villagers begin to complain they are being attacked by a dragon and are not inclined to listen to the local nobleman Klever (Harvey Keitel) when he tries to quell the unrest. In the castle, the Lord is unhappy with Klever for not being able to control the peons, and he is not inclined to make Klever a knight or let him marry his daughter Princess Alba (Maria Lamor). The Princess is in agreement with that, but she's tired of being locked in the castle. She tries to runaway and disappears in the woods which makes people believe she’s been eaten by the dragon, but she discovers there is no dragon at all. She is taken aboard a strange metal ship piloted by an alien named IX (Miguel Bose) who she quickly falls in love with. When the alien in his metal spacesuit returns the Princess to her grieving father, they all think he’s the answer to their greatest desires. The Lord and Boecius believe he has the answer to eternal life, the Princess thinks she’s found her love, and Klever believes he can become a knight by defeating him.

One of the things that make Star Knight such an enjoyable mess is the schizophrenic nature of the production. From the opening screen that tells of the alchemist’s quest to transmute gold and unlock the sequel to eternal life, it seems like you’re going to be treated to a straightforward fantasy film. Then not ten minutes in you’re introduced to Harvey Keitel as Klever, the Brooklyn accented would be knight. You don’t have to be very clever to realize quite quickly that Klever’s name is supposed to be ironic. It’s not much of a joke, but it lets you in on the fact that they are not completely on the level with this one. As the film progresses, it begins to feel more and more like the bargain basement version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This becomes very evident with the character of The Green Knight. He vows to stop people from crossing a bridge, but he never seems to make it work. For my money his scenes, especially the first time he fails in his duty because he’s taking a whiz, are some of the best in the film.

Now we’re here today to talk about Klaus Kinski, but before I get around to him, I have to spend a few minutes talking about Harvey “Klever” Keitel. This is the same Harvey Keitel that appeared in Taxi Driver and Mean Streets prancing around in a haircut that looked like Price Valiant by way of Eddie Rabbit. It is an incredibly strange experience to watch this actor who has become a genre icon saying things like “forsooth” and call his armor “ah-mah”. The casting of Mr. Keitel has to be one of the reasons that this film transformed from a serious fantasy to an unabashed comedy. There’s just no way to take Keitel seriously as a knight, but for a comedy, his over the top, anachronistic performance is a perfect fit.

Now onto Mr. Kinski. While his performance as Boecius is solid, it’s also rather disturbing. The brooding Kinski is no where to be found, and replacing him was the perpetually smiley little fellow. Sure, in some of his films, I’ve seen him crack a smile here and there, but never have I seen Kinski perform while looking so happy. It was as unnerving as some of his more sinister roles I assure you. All kidding aside, Kinski is very entertaining, and his incredible happiness actually adds to the humorous tone of the film. There’s also one other strange thing about Mr. Kinski, but it's not his doing. The DVD I purchased was from the Westlake Entertainment Group, and on the front, there is clearly a picture of Kinski from Aguirre, Wrath of God. Needless to say Kinski’s healing magician does not wear a conquistador’s helmet anywhere in this film. This is just the first of several problems with the disk, but more on that in a few.

Now I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to talk about the Princess and the alien IX. This poor alien. He traveled all the way across the galaxy only to meet a demanding, bitchy gal like the Princess. Now the Star Knight can only communicate with the Princess with a telepathy that sounds like whale song, but somehow he explains to her that he can’t take off his space suit or he’ll die. Repeatedly she tells him that she can’t love him if he doesn’t take it off. He explains it to her again. She tells him that if he loved her he’d take it off. This goes on time and time again in the film, and if I was a spaceman, I’d be beaming her down to the planet and getting the hell out of there. That or figuring out the telepathic whale song way to say, “Listen, woman, I will die. What part of that don’t you understand?”

Star Knight's actual title is El caballero del dragon, and it was a Spanish production directed by Fernando Colomo who also wrote and produced the film. I would really like to look into this man’s head to figure out what film he was intending to make. More than that, I would like to slap him around for letting some terrible copies of this film hit the market. I want to go back to the aforementioned Westlake Entertainment Group DVD. If you want to see this film, avoid this pressing at all costs, and pick up the DVD issued by Cheezy Flicks instead. The Westlake DVD was maddening to watch as the dialog was completely unsynched, and sometimes it seemed to be as much as four of five seconds off. Add to that a very soft VHS transfer, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

It really says something about Star Knight that I watched it anyway and ended up really enjoying it despite the viewing experience. There is no doubt in my mind that I will end up purchasing the other pressing of Star Knight, and I can’t wait to watch it when the dialog and actors mouths match up. This is one to watch. Just don’t let Mr. Kinski’s grin disturb you too much.

Bugg Rating


Unfortunately the closest thing I could find for a trailer for this one is the opening credits. They won't give you much of idea of what this film is like, but here it is never the less.

6 comments:

  1. Man, I've never even heard of this. Sounds like something I'd dig though.

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  2. Check it out Rev. Definitely something you would like. Just make sure you're careful what copy you pick up.

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  3. I have seen my fair share of Kinski films and I have never heard of this one either...sounds completely fucking whacked! Kinski will always creep me out and to watch him smile might give me nightmares. Even thinking about it gives me chills! Great review and I will have to check this crazy ass film out!

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  4. tnh, I like Star Knight's, Sounds is the best ))))

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  5. Dear Author www.thelightningbugslair.com !
    I like this idea, I completely with you agree.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Back in my squandered youth, when I'd watch "The Movie Channel" for hours on end, this film popped up every now and then, and something about its schizophrenia lured me to watch it over and over.

    It has a certain weird mix of flavors to it that's just compelling, much like Michael Mann's "The Keep."

    I'm pleased to see that someone else appreciates this special brand of madness. Makes me proud to be your 200th follower.

    ReplyDelete

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