by Anthony King
Michael Knight – a lone crusader in a dangerous world. A world of the Knight Rider.
Here's what's great about #Junesploitation: On any given day and for any given theme you can watch whatever you want. You watched Doctor Strange
for Scott Adkins day? Perfect! You watched Singin' in the Rain
for musicals day? Awesome! “How you interpret the connection is entirely up to you...” From Patrick's fingertips to your eyeballs. With that in mind I'm taking a little Junesploitation liberty and writing about an episode of a TV show.
Two things came into play with this decision. The first is that I'm writing about movies released in 1982, and in my list of movies from '82 that fit my specific criteria for this column, for the life of me I couldn't find a carsploitation movie. The second thing factoring in my decision is that back in the olden days television networks would end up creating feature-length pilot episodes split into two parts. With two episodes filling in two hour-long slots (commercials included) on a single night, we had, essentially, a feature-length made-for-TV movie. The Rockford Files, Hill Street Blues, Vega$
and many others did this.
So if you haven't seen an episode of Knight Rider
, parts one and two of the pilot episode, "Knight of the Phoenix," set everything up for us. The first thing we get is the opening credits and that killer theme song composed by Stu Phillips. If you know, you know. Then the episode opens in a casino on the Las Vegas strip where an older gentlemen is winning big. On his arm is the one and only buxom bombshell Phyllis Davis (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Sweet Sugar
). A security guard is watching the couple, and another security guard, Michael Long, is watching that security guard. A double-cross is revealed, shots are fired, Davis and her accomplice take off in a car, and Long pursues. We arrive in the desert, Davis shoots Long, leaves him for dead, black out. We're then in a mansion, Long is in full head bandages, two older gentlemen, Wilton Knight and a man called Devon, are talking, and the bandages are removed revealing David Hasselhoff with perfectly coifed hair.
Now, having only seen a handful of episodes, I don't know if this is ever revisited, but Michael Long (not The Hoff, btw) ended up needing reconstructive surgery because he was shot point-blank in the head. It turns out a metal plate in his forehead saved his life, but his face was messed up enough that Knight decided to make this mangled stranger look like Knight did when he was younger. Hoff holds a mirror to his face and says dramatically, “I don't know this person.” He hangs around to rehabilitate and becomes close to Knight just before the old man dies. Again, I don't know the ins and outs of the series, but Knight apparently had plans for this young man he rescued because he and Devon have given him a new identity and fixed his car up to be something of which Batman would be envious; a Pontiac Firebird now called the Knight Industries Three Thousand, or KITT. Michael Knight, nee Long, gets in his newly restored car and remarks, “It looks like Darth Vader's bathroom.” And guess what? It talks! Voiced by none other than John Adams himself, William Daniels.
Like many of the shows from this period, plots are intricate, characters are abundant, action set pieces are aplenty, and music is catchy. Other than different motifs of the unforgettable theme song, the soundtrack for "Knight of the Phoenix" is entirely made up of popular songs of the era (era). “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner, “Take It Easy” by The Eagles, “Don't Stop” by Fleetwood Mac, etc. Interestingly enough, though, is that these songs are all diegetic, and covers. I don't know if this was a way to get around paying higher copyright fees but it's very distracting hearing well-known songs sung karaoke style. And as is the case in many TV shows, we see some interesting cameos. Most notably in "Knight of the Phoenix" are the gardener from The Beach Girls
as a car thief who KITT takes care of promptly, and Charles Napier in an uncredited role as one of the thugs that fights Hoff.
While the plot is exciting enough, it's obviously not the focus of a show featuring David
Hasselhoff and a talking supercar. We do learn that Michael Knight is heavily trained in martial
arts in a scene straight from a Monty Python sketch where we see numerous bodies flying
through the air and crashing into tables and chairs but no actual fighting. We know that
Michael Knight is a bit of a Casanova. Like most episodes, I assume, here he has a one-off
love interest that he sneaks up on after her shift at the bar is over. He says, “I stayed in my
car so I wouldn't scare you.” She retorts, “Well ain't you the David Niven.” And I know Devon
is Michael's “handler” for the remainder of the show's four seasons. My only question is: does
the 60-year-old Irishman wear eyeliner throughout the entire series or just this first episode?
I watched a lot of Knight Rider reruns when I was a child. I do not remember seeing the program during its network run, and the show seemed to have disappeared from television by the 1990s. Only recently have I seen it airing on one of the numerous vintage TV channels. What strikes me now more than anything are the stunts. A lot of work went into just a few seconds of images on the screen.ReplyDelete
Oh yeah, I watched it a lot when it was on in the 80's (probably re-runs), but not since then. Might be a fun show to revisit after I'm done re-watching T.J. Hooker.Delete
I was seriously tempted to watch the "Knight Rider" two-parter Season 2 opener, "Goliath Parts 1 & 2" for today's CARS! Day. Also known as the one where The Hoff plays Michael Knight's Evil Twin, Garthe, with a thin-pencil stache. So cheesy, so deadly serious, so good! :-)ReplyDelete