He swung through the trees in Greystoke and brandished a sword in Highlander, and now he’s the prime suspect in the latest serial killer movie Knight Moves. Christopher Lambert talks to Alan Morrison.
We’ve had serial killers in hockey masks. serial killers dressed in the skins of their victims, serial killers who kept the rotting corpse of their mother in the basement. But now comes the ultimate setting for the slaying psycho: the serial killer from the dangerous, fast paced, sexy world of, ehm, world class chess.
‘These peOple are highly intellectual, but there‘s something mentally bizarre about them,’ insists Christopher Lambert, the star of Knight Moves. ‘They show an amazing amount of mental violence and, from time to time, some physical violence, especially when they miss a move or when they lose a game. The fact that I’m the prime suspect, that I could be the killer, gives a duality to the character. This is a guy who, on one side, can be open, positive, charming, but can also be very violent, possibly the violence of a psycho killer.’
Lambert plays Peter Sanderson, an enigmatic Grand Master, who is visiting a small American town for a chess championship when a series of bizarre and brutal murders commences. Passionate on and off the checkered board, he retains enough brooding mystery about him to suggest that, if he is not the killer himself, he is the catalyst for the real killer’s actions. The intriguing aspect of Knight Moves is the way that the film’s chess background spills over into the pacing of the plot, so that the killer plays enough games to keep both the police and the audience guessing. Bringing the old-fashioned peaks and troughs of
the whodunnit to the contemporary psycho thriller, it would actually be doing something worthwhile and original for the genre if it wasn‘t for the fact that there’s no tension, the characters are screaming to be freed from their stereotypes and the attitude shown towards the disposable nubiles harks back to the worst days of the slasher school.
‘lt’s not a slasher movie,’ counters Lambert. ‘When the murders take place, you see this ﬂash and then you imagine in your own mind what you want to picture. You don’t need to see it .’
Swiss-born director Carl Schenkel agrees: ‘Fear is not on the screen, fear is inside the human imagination. You do a film about a serial killer who kills women — which is not what you really want to do, but there’s no other way — so at least you try to avoid the violence that comes with it. That’s something we said at the beginning: we‘re not going to show any blood. we’re not going to exploit it.‘
Yes, there we have it: a serial killer movie with no blood, a thriller noticeably lacking in thrills. After the disaster of HighlanderZ, Lambert was much in need of a commercial rebirth, but that is unlikely to happen with Knight Moves. on which he also served as executive producer. Born in New York to French parents, Lambert studied acting at the Paris Conservatoire where, only two years into
his course, he was chosen by Hugh Hudson for the lead role in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan. Making the most of his bilingual talent. he then alternated between European projects — Subway, Paroles et Musique and Marco Ferreri‘s I Love You — and more mainstream Hollywood films — Highlander and Michael Cimino's less-than-wonderful The Sicilian. Perhaps his cult standing will be restored with Highlander3. ‘Highlander3 will be the direct sequel to Highlander 1,’ he explains. ‘It will happen before Highlander2 and, like the original. it will use the same kind of ﬂashbacks and be a romantic love story action movie rather instead ofjust a futuristic adventure.’ He is as yet unsure if he will be teamed again with Scotland‘s favourite celluloid son — ‘In some ways it’s difficult: Sean has been dead twice now‘ — but. having got his single cameo appearance in the first episode of a 22-part TV Highlander spin-off out of the way, he is keen to return to film in Scotland for several reasons: ‘I like the Scotch — you have so many varieties. I like the land. I like the weather, personally. When we were shooting in March and April in Scotland. it was like four seasons in the one day. It‘s the only country in the world where you have that.’ We know, Christopher, we know.
Knight Moves opens across Scotland on Friday 4
_ Doing it for reel
One oi the most ioresighted decisions within the world at talent, commitment and poverty that is the Scottish iilm industry was the launch last year oi First Heels, 3 Scottish Film Council Initiative which allowed young iiimmakers the opportunity to produce
or complete a lirst iilm orvideo project.
Aiter Scottish Television had matched the SFC's investment oi £20,000, the first round at grants (ranging irom £50 to £2,000) were awarded. As well as helping 30 individual iiimmakers, First Heels also gave grants oi £2000 to Glasgow Film and Video Workshop, the Video Access Group and Edinburgh Film Workshop Trust to aid their own production schemes.
The projects were completed in May and June oi this year and, in all, some 50 titles were viewed. Scottish Television producer Henry Eagles selected material lor three
programmes which were transmitted during August, while GFT director Ken lngles also made a selection at three programmes which will screen in the cinema during the lirst week at September.
The cinema setting seems appropriate given the visual strength oi many at the works. indeed, two oi the lilms were selected lor this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival: David Cairn's The Bottle lmp screens as part 01 Programme 11 oi the Channel FourYoung Film Maker oi the Year Award at 11 .45am on Saturday 29, while David Mackenzie’s stylish iilm
noir Dirty Diamonds played to a sell-out house on Monday 17.
The First Reels project is currently being evaluated and may well be modilied in line with the ieedback irom the iiimmakers and workshops who have participated. An initiative at this stature, which is willing to respond to the needs oi the iiimmakers rather than impose its own ideas on them, plays a vital role in keeping alive the creativity oi Scottish iilmmaking. (Alan Morrison)
First Heels (15), irom 1-5 Sept:
Glasgow Film Theatre.
64 The List 28 August — 10 September 1992