Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann Blu-ray Review
Directed by William Dear
Written by William Dear and Michael Nesmith
1982, Region A, 93 minutes, Rated PG
Blu-ray released on March 19th, 2013
Fred Ward as Lyle Swann
Belinda Bauer as Claire
Peter Coyote as Porter Reese
Ed Lauter as Padre
L.Q. Jones as Ben Potter
Tracey Walter as Carl
Richard Masur as Claude
Lyle Swann is a champion motorcycle rider in the Baja 1000 off-road race held on Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. His hopes for a sweet victory are dashed when he accidentally crosses into a science experiment that transports him one hundred years into the past. Initially met with fear and suspicion, Swann helps defend a town from a roving gang of thugs while trying to understand what is happening to him and figure out how he can return to his 20th century life. Along the way he connects with Claire, a strong woman who is good in a fight and has a clear moral compass. He is also pursued by Porter Reese’s gang of outlaws, who are trying to steal his bike.
Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann is a high-concept spin on Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court that exists primarily to see the motorcycle outrun cowboys on horseback. The film is a low-budget precursor to Back to the Future III, and genre fans will welcome the good-natured tone and fast pace. Lyle Swann is a simple man with limited goals and an even more limited curiosity for his current dilemma. The simple ways of the town seem alien to our hero, but Swann is never rude or condescending, instead thoughtful and concerned.
The casting of Fred Ward (Tremors) as the rugged protagonist is a solid choice, as he easily carries the brunt of the story on his shoulders. Timerider led to additional starring roles for Ward in films like The Right Stuff and Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. Peter Coyote (Bitter Moon) brings an enthusiastic glee as the villainous Porter Reese in pursuit of this mysterious machine. Fellow scumbags Carl and Claude are played respectively by the always welcome Tracey Walter (Repo Man) and Richard Masur (The Thing) and both are excellent here. Ed Lauter (Return of the Living Dead) is the local priest with an agenda and Belinda Bauer (Robocop 2) offers a strong screen presence as Claire.
Director William Dear (Harry & The Hendersons) and producer Michael Nesmith (Tapeheads) have created a laid-back film that never takes itself too seriously, doesn’t let the plot get in the way of the story and maintains a playful attitude with the subject matter. Dear co-wrote the script with Nesmith, who in turn wrote the score, a definite highlight for the production. There are some fun set pieces that keep the action flowing and some nice use of Steadicam for motorcycle-riding POV shots, but the film suffers pacing problems since the hero remains clueless for the majority of the running time.
The biggest hurdle is the limited plot as our protagonist glides from one scenario to another without much depth or consequence. He doesn’t ever really suffer or grow as a character and yet is still likeable, a credit to the casting. After a limited theatrical run, Timerider found a second life on home video and frequent screenings on late night cable television. Hopefully this new release will introduce new audiences to this forgotten title, if only to allow more people to enjoy the awesomeness of Fred Ward.
Video and Audio:
Timerider is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and looks pretty decent for a low-budget film shot thirty years ago. Colors are stable and black levels solid, neither pushing too hard to impress, and the natural beauty of the desert location is indisputable. The print is in slightly better shape than the one used for the previous DVD release that was marred with dirt and scratches.
Audio options include a respectable DTS HD 2.0 MA mix that preserves the original source material. The primary beneficiary of this mix is Michael Nesmith’s score that adds to the onscreen action and the heroics of our protagonist. Dialogue is always clear and free from distortion and English subtitles are provided.
Shout! Factory brings a limited offering of supplemental material, but fans should be pleased.
The main attraction here is an all new audio commentary with director William Dear, who shares many of the same anecdotes as on the previous DVD release. This print retains the original ending which is only briefly acknowledged here, but the earlier version mentioned the changes as a knee jerk reaction to an unnamed film that suffered an unfortunate helicopter accident (likely Twilight Zone: The Movie).
A pair of interviews with William Dear and Michael Nesmith follow, in which the two discuss how the project came together. This film appears to be the exception to the rule and simply fell into place with seemingly little effort. The two have nothing but fond memories of the experience and appear genuinely happy to have collaborated on it.
Next up, the original marketing materials are presented as a trailer and set of TV spots for your enjoyment.
Lastly, a gallery of stills, storyboards and behind-the-scenes photographs rounds out the extras on this disc.
*Note: The screenshots on this page are not a reflection of the Blu-ray image. They were captured using the standard DVD.*