Knight Moves (1992)


USA/Germany. 1992.


Director – Carl Schenkel, Screenplay – Brad Mirman, Producers – Zidd El Khoury & Jean-Luc De Fait, Photography – Dietrich Lohmann, Music – Anne Dudley, Production Design – Graeme Murray. Production Company – El Khoury-Defait-Geissler/Lamb Bear Entertainment/Ink Slinger Productions


Christopher Lambert (Peter Sanderson), Diane Lane (Kathy Sheppard), Tom Skerritt (Police Chief Frank Sedman), Daniel Baldwin (Detective Andy Wagner), Karene Yobe (Erica Sanderson), Ferdinand Mayne (Jeremy Edmonds), Arthur Brauss (Victor Yurilivich)


On the island of Westport in Connecticut, Peter Sanderson is competing in a chess grandmaster tournament. Someone then starts playing a game with Sanderson, killing the people around him. Sanderson works out that the bodies are being left across the island in the positions of a chess game and the killer is inviting him to play. He then realises the opponent he faces is the now adult competitor he bet as a child who became unbalanced as a result of losing the game.

Knight Moves was an A– budget thriller that was quickly released in the aftermath of the success of The Silence of the Lambs (1991). It did little business with the public.

Knight Moves is an okay film. The idea of the chess game with human lives had been done before in odd efforts like The Black Cat (1934), Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943) and tv’s Twin Peaks (1990-1). The blending of the serial killer and chess metaphor is a clever idea – unfortunately, the script’s progression of clues has an irritable looseness. The plot only intermittently keeps you hooked in its twists and turns. The denouement is disappointing – for all the killer’s keeping their identity hidden, one expected the revelation to be of someone who was more integral to the plot. When finally seen, the psycho is just another twitching weirdo who barely seems to be able to hold it together let alone to have the brains to conduct such an ingenious scheme.

Knight Moves has clearly been designed for the big-screen from the outset with its wide-angle photography and slam-bang stereo soundtrack. Director Carl Schenkel does a fair job in keeping tensions tightly wound throughout. Star Christopher Lambert also Executive Produces Knight Moves and one can clearly see why he shepherded the script in as it at least allows him to use his one-dimensional acting style to advantage.

Carl Schenkel was a Swiss-born director who made a number of other genre films, including the sex film Dracula Blows His Cool (1979), the festival-acclaimed psycho-thriller Out of Order (1984), the occult tv movie Bay Coven (1987), Exquisite Tenderness/The Surgeon (1995) about a deranged surgeon, and Tarzan and the Lost City (1998).

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