"I am what I am, and I don't think Betty Ford takes vampires."—Nick Knight
Rick Springfield is a maverick vampire cop who won't play by the rules in this 1989 TV movie, an unsold pilot for the short-lived Forever Knight network series. A cop show with a supernatural twist, Nick Knight is an underrated, unfairly forgotten gem, one that deserves to rise from the television graveyard and enjoy eternal life on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Nick Knight (unrelated—I think—to Knight Rider's Michael Knight) is an L.A. homicide detective who protects the weak, drives a very cool car, and looks good in leather. He's also a vampire with one goal in life: to become human again so that he can watch the sun rise and wake up next to someone he loves. The road is a tough one, though—although he receives help from a police pathologist, the vampire that made him doesn't like his new direction, and does everything he can to thwart Knight. "LaCroix was my master—the vampire that brought me over," says Knight. "It's like a brotherhood. We have the same blood in our veins; he wants to keep it that way."
If that isn't enough to deal with, Nick is forced to take on a new partner when the case he is working on—a killer who has already left behind four blood-drained corpses—suddenly becomes a media target. His investigation brings him to Alyce Hunter, a lovely archeologist working at a museum where the latest murder victim is found. There is instant chemistry between the two, and Nick must fight a private battle between his blood lust and his desire for love and humanity.
Nick Knight is a wrongfully overlooked TV movie from 1989 that inspired the cult-favorite TV series Forever Knight. 1980s pop icon Rick Springfield plays the title role in a performance that is as good as the movie itself. The opening scene sets the tone with an atmospheric shot of an archeological dig, workers sweating in the sun as they uncover ancient treasures. An excited Alyce Hunter comes into frame, picking up an object and dusting it off carefully. As the camera closes in on her fascinated expression, we see that the object she is holding is an ancient looking cup, and we know we'll be seeing it later. What a great way to draw the audience in.
As TV movies go, Nick Knight stands the test of time. Aside from the period soundtrack (featuring Human League, INXS, and others) and a few cheesy nightclub scenes, there is very little that would peg this as an obviously '80s flick. Knight is a tormented soul who lives in darkness, and his surroundings reflect that, giving the movie a timeless look. When we do see daylight, it is usually in the form of the many TV monitors he has set up in his apartment so he can at least see what the sunlit world looks like, if only through the lens of a video camera. This and many other subtle insights into the character help to endear him the audience and have them rooting for Nick from the beginning.
The plot, story, and characters all work together seamlessly—Springfield delivers a convincing performance and has a strong chemistry with all of his co-stars. He acts with a sincerity and lightheartedness that makes you believe in the character. This is really the anchor-point of the series; if you can't believe in the main character, you'll never understand why the rest of the characters do.
Rick Springfield fans will certainly want to check out this movie, and fans of Forever Knight might enjoy seeing an earlier incarnation of their favorite series, if only to see a younger, sleeker version of Nick's lovable pain-in-the-ass partner Schanke, played by John Kapelos (AKA Carl the Janitor from The Breakfast Club, the only cast member to cross over from the Nick Knight movie), who became a series favorite as the show gained popularity. Vampire fans in general can add this movie to the short list of vampire flicks that not only take the genre seriously, but puts it in a modern setting and gets the tone and the action right. In other words, little or no cheese factor here.
Video/Audio/Extras: The overall viewing experience is somewhat dampened by a muddy, overly dark print (presented in its original full frame aspect ratio) and a bare-bones release. The monaural soundtrack is robust, but the visuals are compelling enough that the absence of at least a stereo track is keenly missed. No subtitles, no alternate languages, and nothing other than a chapter selection from the main menu on this release may hurt sales for those who only like to add special editions to their shelves, and that would be too bad.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's difficult not to compare this movie with the series that came after, but in most respects the story is more coherent and the acting more natural than in the pilot episode of Forever Knight—with one major exception. The actor who plays LaCroix (Michael Nader from Dynasty) in Nick Knight is a shrill off-note in an otherwise excellent cast. If it isn't his cheesy acting, it's his unconvincing embodiment of a centuries-old vampire. His scenes only serve to jerk the viewer out of the mood of the show, but at least his scenes are mercifully brief.
Also less than convincing were a couple of vampire flying scenes. After Knight is dunked in a pool, for instance, there is a promising shot of him rising like a leviathan from the water, only to be followed up by some rather lame floating about as his attacker runs away in terror. Knight is frozen in "attack claw hands" mode, which makes him look more like an electrocuted cat than a scary vampire, but these scenes, too, are thankfully short in duration.
Of the shows (such as Quantum Leap) that stand out from the late '80s, Nick Knight can be digested in one easy bite. It represents the vampire genre well and delivers a quality story with fine performances. Definitely a popcorn-and-friends movie, and a good way to spend 90 minutes.
To the extent that a tortured, unholy soul like Nick Knight can ever be truly innocent, the court finds Mr. Knight not guilty on all charges.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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