STAR KNIGHT. A spoof of science fiction in the style of Monty Python

Although Star Knight is considered the worst film in the director’s filmography today, it’s impossible to deny this light, entertaining farce a certain charm.

Maciej Kaczmarski

2 April 2024

Star Knight

A mute visitor from another planet, a mysterious alchemist in a dwarf’s hat, and a medieval knight uttering Shakespearean phrases with a New York accent – such things can only be found in Star Knight.

The action takes place in medieval Europe. An alchemist known as Boecjusz draws a magical circle on the floor of his workshop and offers prayers to the gods to send him an angel, as he wants to possess the “secret of secrets,” namely the liquid gold – the elixir of life. At the same moment, the sky flashes with blinding light, and the next day, villagers begin to tell stories of a dragon rampaging in the area. The local nobleman, Count Rue, doesn’t believe these tales until his beautiful daughter, Alba, disappears under mysterious circumstances. Coming to her rescue is Klever, a clumsy servant of the count who dreams of becoming a knight, and along with the pious clergyman Lupo, he conspires against his master and the sympathetic Boecjusz. It turns out that the mysterious flying object is not a dragon but a spaceship piloted by the alien Ix, with whom Alba has fallen in love.

Star Knight

Fernando Colomo gained renown as the godfather of comedia madrileña – a comedic trend in Spanish cinema that emerged during the period of transformation after the fall of General Franco’s regime (another prominent creator working in this convention is Fernando Trueba). These films portrayed the lives of Madrid residents, usually in a light-hearted and carefree manner – despite often dealing with serious themes such as existential crisis, family problems, and the aftermath of the regime. The flagship works of comedia madrileña and also Colomo’s most famous films are Tigres de papel (1977), ¿Qué hace una chica como tú en un sitio como éste? (1978), and La mano negra (1980). The formula of the genre exhausted itself with the generational change in the late 80s and early 90s, but it influenced the work of filmmakers such as Pedro Almodóvar and opened doors to Hollywood for some, like Fernando Trueba who directed Too Much (1995).

Star Knight is also a comedy, but of a completely different kind – it’s a spoof of science fiction, which also takes aim at Arthurian romance and the legend of St. George, the dragon slayer. The filmmakers (Colomo and co-screenwriters Andreu Martín and Miguel Ángel Nieto) must have been well-versed in the works of the Monty Python troupe – the whole film evokes memories of Jabberwocky (1977), and the character of the Green Knight guarding the bridge is almost directly lifted from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). The very concept of combining sci-fi with knightly epic verges on the absurd, and the film is full of caricatured characters, exaggerated situations, and humor that lies somewhere between satire and slapstick. Star Knight may not be as funny as Life of Brian (1979) and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983), but it’s unpretentious and never takes itself too seriously.

Depending on the source, the film cost either 300 or 400 million pesetas (3 or 4 million dollars) and was then the most expensive production in Spanish cinema. Most of the budget went to special effects and actor salaries: Harvey Keitel (Klever), Klaus Kinski (Boecjusz), Fernando Rey (Lupe), and Miguel Bosé (Ix), a pop music star dubbed “the Spanish David Bowie.” Kinski, in a rare role as a benefactor which he took over from Vincent Price, was as difficult to work with as usual: he demanded a higher fee and accommodation in Barcelona (over 100 km from the filming location in Olot and Castillo de Requesens castle), where he spent most of his time wandering around flamenco bars. But he lost his humor when he had to sit on a horse for a long time on the first day of shooting, and never regained it until the end of filming. Colomo called Kinski a “spoiled, naughty child.”

Star Knight

The first screening of Star Knight (originally El caballero del dragón – The Knight of the Dragon) took place on December 20, 1985, in Spain. The film ranked seventh among the most popular Spanish productions of that period, but the box office revenues were too small to recoup its budget. In May 1986, Star Knight premiered in the USA, where it was shown under the title Star Knight to evoke associations with Star Wars. However, CineTel Films, the company distributing the film in America, terminated the distribution agreement, and the film quickly disappeared from American screens. Colomo was left with a debt of 50 million pesetas, which he only paid off after the success of his next film: Happy Life (1987). And although Star Knight is considered the worst film in the director’s filmography today, it’s impossible to deny this light, entertaining farce a certain charm.