Lyle Swann is a champion off-road racer. But to the people of 1877, he's something very, very different…
Before Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future and after George Pal's The Time Machine, there was William Dear's Timerider. Produced by Michael Nesmith of "The Monkees" fame, Timerider is considered a cult classic, a movie about the adventure of Lyle Swann (Fred Ward, Tremors), an off-road motorcycle racer accidentally zapped back into the year 1877. Also starring Peter Coyote (Jagged Edge) and Richard Masur (My Girl), Timerider zooms onto DVD care of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
While racing around the dessert in 1982, Lyle Swann (Ward) is accidentally thrust back into the old west filled with thieves, murderers, and dangerously attractive local women!
After getting caught in a science experiment involving time travel, Swann finds himself dodging bullets and beauties in his quest to find his way back home. Dressed up in a bright red leather biking suit and armed with a map from a gas station, everyone Swann comes across thinks he's either an alien or some kind of malevolent devil. Meeting up with some local villagers, including the lovely Claire (Belinda Bauer), Lyle finds that his bike is a hot commodity among a band of murdering outlaws led by the vicious Reeves (Coyote) and his two henchmen (Richard Maser and Tracey Walter). Reeves will do anything to retrieve the "riding machine" that Lyle possesses—even if it means killing Swann in the process!
While technicians in 1982 attempt to bring him back, Swann is busy keeping himself alive in a time where he isn't very welcome. Can Lyle Swann make it back to his future, or will he be a permanent part of the old west?
"An energetic romp" is the best way to describe Timerider. Aside of zombie flicks and movies starring Chevy Chase, time travel is one of my favorite themes in cinema. As most friends and colleagues know, the Back to the Future trilogy are my favorite movies, hands down. Just recently I (finally) saw the 1960 H.G. Wells classic The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor and Alan Young. Though not as well executed as Back to the Future, I readily enjoyed the 1960s take on the idea of bending space and time. Surprisingly, I enjoyed Timerider equally as much.
Timerider starts off a bit slow. It seems as if the first twenty minutes are taken up watching Swann ride his bike all over the dry dessert plains. After that sluggish beginning, Timerider kicks into a funny and enjoyable fish-out-of-water story. Unlike most other time travel movies, Swann is usually unaware that he has been sent into the past. Swann asks locals if they have a phone or radio, and their looks of bafflement tell him that maybe something is amiss (when Swann offers one cowboy an edible "power bar," the man's reaction is priceless). In all honestly I can't even remember when Swann realized he was in the past—I can't recall there being one specific scene where Swann smacks his head and goes, "D'oh! I've been transported back in time!"
Unlike the Back to the Future films, Timerider makes no substantial mention about Swann's possibility of accidentally altering the past. Whereas Marty McFly and Doc Brown were concerned about complex paradoxes and future alterations, Swann is mostly worried about getting his ass out of the past. While Timerider is an enjoyable movie, it doesn't have the grandiose feel of some of the other big budget time travel movies. The Time Machine zoomed its lead character into war torn London and past a new ice age. Back to the Future whisked Marty off to the innocent 1950s and 30 years into the bustling electronic future. Timerider settles for keeping Swann comfortably stuck in the old west. Though the movie is still fun, it just seems to lack the scope of other time travel movies.
However, Timerider is filled with some colorful and funny performances. Fred Ward is an underused and underrated actor, an everyman who can deliver dialogue with a fresh tilt that works for many of his characters. Here Ward plays Swann as a laid back racer, a guy who just wants to go home with minimal trouble from his surroundings. Peter Coyote as Reese is effectively evil as a bad guy who only wants what's best for him, and everyone else around him be damned. His henchmen played by Richard Maser and Tracey Walter (The Joker's right hand man in Tim Burton's Batman) are both sleazy and creepy, especially Maser, who displays a tough guy image that is very contrasting to most of the soft spoken roles. And through it all director/co-writer William Dear (Harry And The Hendersons) keeps the story moving along briskly, only slowing down enough to have Swan get it on with a female gunslinger.
By the look of the cover art, Timerider seems to be an outdated movie banished into video obscurity. The truth is that it's a much better story that one might expect—a mixture of goofiness, wit, and fantasy that should please sci-fi and time travel aficionados alike. It may be a bunch of hooey, but it sure is fun hooey.
Timerider is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Once again Anchor Bay has done a stunning job on this small title, making sure that the picture looks smooth and clean. While a small bit of grain shows up on the picture, overall this is a very clear transfer and a very nice job by Anchor Bay. Colors and black levels are on the money with edge enhancement never spotted.
Audio is presented in a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I was very impressed with the amount of directional qualities used in this new remix. Composer Michael Nesmith's twangy western themes were often pumped through all the speakers, and sound effects had directional qualities that were very fulfilling. All aspects of the dialogue, music, and effects were clear of distortion, with only the slightest bit of hiss present. Also included on this disc is a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack in English. No other alternate tracks or subtitles are included.
Anchor Bay has included some decent extra features on Timerider (especially considering that this is not a popular title among most movie goers). To start off with there is a fairly interesting commentary track by director/co-writer William Dear. While this track often includes some gaps of silence, overall Dear is an entertaining guy who tells a few funny tales about the making of the film. Also included on the disc are six entertaining TV spots for the film (some thirty seconds long, others only ten), as well as a full frame pre-release trailer and the original theatrical trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Fun for the whole dang family, Timerider is an entertaining movie if you don't take it too seriously. It's always nice to see Fred Ward in a film (well, except for Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins…), and the fact that we get to see Peter Coyote sport a mouthful of gold teeth should be reason enough for you to rent this movie. Anchor Bay has once again done wonderful work on a smaller title.
I've decided to drop any and all charges against Timerider and Anchor Bay! Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Six TV Spots
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