DVD Review: Forever Knight Vol 1-3
Forever Knight (1992)
Studio: Sony Pictures
Theatrical Release Date: October 21, 2003
Directed By: Allan Kroeker
Cast: Geraint Wyn Davies, Nigel Bennett, Catherine Disher
Review By: Sam Hawken
Vampires do not sparkle. That said, the sparkly vampires of Stephenie Meyer’s TWILIGHT series have made vampires all the rage once again. This is a cycle that seems to recur every twenty years or so, brought on by some piece of media that genre fans simply cannot get enough of. Once upon a time it was Anne Rice’s turn and then a little roleplaying game called VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE took center stage. FOREVER KNIGHT was a television program that emerged during this latter period, following the exploits of vampire cop in a shadowy Toronto. In many respects it was more of a series recreation of V:tM than the direct TV adaptation, KINDRED: THE EMBRACED, turned out to be.
A fairly unusual set of circumstances allowed FOREVER KNIGHT to appear. Television network CBS was looking for a way to revive its late-night programming in the face of the (seemingly unbeatable) one-two punch of Johnny Carson and David Letterman. After much tinkering with their only real entry in the late-night talk genre, THE PAT SAJAK SHOW, CBS decided to try something a little radical, creating a block of five shows that would air one after the other in late-night slots. Dubbed “Crimetime After Primetime,” these were mostly forgettable junk with only two shows making it out of this short-lived ghetto: SILK STALKINGS and FOREVER KNIGHT.
SILK STALKINGS went on to jump-start the USA Network’s original programming, but this site is devoted to HORROR, not horrible shows. FOREVER KNIGHT got three years, the last in syndication, and earned a passionate following. It was not a great show, but it at least had the virtue of being something generally new and mostly different at a time when innovation was in short supply on television.
FOREVER KNIGHT’s two-part pilot is already something of a curiosity because of its history. The new series debuted in 1992, but sharp-eyed viewers might have realized even then that the pilot episode wasn’t entirely original. Some might even have had a strong sense of déjà vu. “Haven’t I seen this before?” they’d say. And the answer is yes and no.
As it happens, CBS had made a stab at the “vampire cop” concept once before. In 1989 a pilot for a show called NICK KNIGHT surfaced for an obligatory showing. Pop star-turned-actor Rick Springfield played the titular lead, and the pilot followed Nick Knight’s efforts to liberate a jade cup from the hands of his former vampire master and maybe, just maybe, cure the vampirism that has become his personal bane. It’s really quite awful and, though hard to find, can be found at conventions and the like. For aficionados of bad TV, it’s a catch.
NICK KNIGHT didn’t set the television world on fire and so was never picked up. Its creators saw a chance to revive things in the post-VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE world and essentially did a second take on the same concept and story. All the parts were recast save one and the script was polished into something a touch more compelling, though still not great.
The first bonus is the casting of Welsh-born Canadian actor Geraint Wyn Davies to Rick Springfield in the critical role of Knight. Davies has a long association with the theater and brings life to what could have been (and was before) a pretty flat character. Even with two hours to kill in the pilot there’s not much time to establish Knight beyond his essential characteristics: he’s a 700+ year old vampire, he wants to be human again and he works as a cop. His supporting cast, obnoxious semi-partner Schanke, helpful medical examiner Natalie and long-suffering boss, Captain Stonetree, must be introduced, as well as the vampires that have known Knight since the year 1228. Meanwhile, someone’s killing homeless people with O+ blood and draining them dry. Oh, and there’s the whole jade-cup storyline from the original pilot to essay, as well.
FOREVER KNIGHT never achieved masterpiece status, especially as the show’s already weak ratings dipped and much shuffling of the deck occurred behind and in front of the camera. That said its primary strengths and weaknesses were evident from this very first episode.
On the plus side we have a (mostly) strong cast. Perennial Canadian bad guy Nigel Bennett played Lacroix, the ageless vampire that first brought Nick Knight into the vampiric fold and Deborah Duchêne had the role of Knight’s on-again, off-again vampire love interest, Janette. Bennett gets little to do in the first half of the pilot and perhaps twirls his metaphorical mustache a bit too much in the second half, but he carries the devil’s advocate, pro-vampire position very well. What might seem evil to a human being, like murder, is just a question of perspective to a centuries’ old vampire, for example. Lacroix actually seems offended that Knight would want to abandon immortality for humanity and that comes across in a positive way here and in the episodes to follow.
The human cast is a bit weaker. The lone carryover from the Springfield version is John Kapelos, an actor you’d recognize immediately if you saw, but don’t know by name. His character, Schanke, is so willfully obnoxious that you’ll wish HE was the one threatened with death-by-staking. Catherine Disher, as the woman who knows Knight’s secret, doesn’t make much of an impression, though she does get to wear some positively HUGE ‘80s-hangover shoulder pads along with a similarly gigantic perm.
Geraint Wyn Davies acquits himself well despite the restrictions of the pilot format and lays the groundwork for some soulful work later on. Echoes of his self-loathing vampire can be felt in today’s vampire sensation, TWILIGHT, but it’s far less annoying in a grown man than in a whiny, sparkly teenaged bloodsucker. Davies is saddled with some unfortunate early-’90s clothing and hair, but that’s par for the course; the whole pilot is soaked in neon and features some sub-MTV camerawork to boot.
What works beyond the acting part of the equation is the sense of world-building going on. There is a subculture of vampires that comes to light in the series at large and it’s hinted at here. While brooding, emo vamps are everywhere these days, it was less common then and even though ANGEL and MOONLIGHT might make the vampire-as-detective motif seem pat, it was likewise fresh in FOREVER KNIGHT. Sure, the O+ Killer Plot is a nonstarter and the jade cup/vampire cure thing is even more of an afterthought here than it was in 1989, but those aspects of the pilot are just window dressing to sell FOREVER KNIGHT as a crime show; the real meat is the vampirism, and that’s what prompts us to watch more.
And what more we did, even as the show made some grave missteps — vampire seeing-eye dogs, anyone? — and collapsed under its own weight in the third season. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Stephenie Meyer was a fan of the show; there are many with fond memories of Nick Knight reborn out of the ashes of a Rick Springfield failure. Just don’t blame this vampire for the sparkly ones.
The first two series of FOREVER KNIGHT are available to watch online for FREE at Hulu.com, including the pilot reviewed here. Click and enjoy: http://www.hulu.com/forever-knight
Brutal As Hell Rating:
4 out of 5