Lost And Found Series: Chapter 5 Speed Demon

Art & Culture

Greetings everybody. Did you enjoy ‘The Music of Chance’ and building their own wall of debt in the last ‘Lost and Found’ chapter? I hope so. Let’s move on swiftly to this week’s viewing though and it’s quite a twisted ride to say the least. It’s the classic tale for many of finding a film you used to enjoy as a child only to watch it as an adult and notice all the questionable events that took place in a ‘kids film’. Ever watched the one about the motorcycle racer that accidentally gets sent back to 1877 and gets mistaken for being the devil only to be chased by outlaws for his dirt bike, written by Michael Nesmith (of The Monkees)…? Ladies and gentleman I present to you ‘Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann’.


Film: Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann

Cast: Fred Ward, Belinda Bauer, Richard Masur and L.Q. Jones


Director: William Dear


Writer: Michael Nesmith


When you look at background of how this film started, it seems to be from the mind of Mr. Nesmith himself, who is no stranger to Hollywood if you remember The Monkees only cinematic outing in the madcap, psychedelic ‘Head’ back in 1968. Nesmith contributed his writing efforts to the film, also written by Jack Nicholson and some others, but was not credited. Nesmith also had many music video and Television ventures, some which were directed by William Dear, and had a hand in featuring, some unknown at the time, established comics of today such as Jerry Springer and Whoopi Goldberg.


Nesmith wrote ‘Timerider’ in order to be produced by Zoomo Production, a subsidiary of his other production company Pacific Arts Corporation and released by his other company Pacific Arts Video. From the outside looking in, I truly believe ‘Timerider’ was Nesmith’s own personal project since his first writing stint in the sixties, and he was doing everything in his power to make sure it come out the exact way he envisioned it.


So, let’s discuss the film. I pretty much covered the storyline in the opening paragraph. Fred Ward plays Lyle Swann, the unfortunate soul that gets zapped back to 1877 during a bike race and runs into Porter Reese (Peter Coyote) and his gang who want to take his bike. The local village priest Padre (Ed Lauter) and a mysterious beautiful woman Claire Cygne (Belinda Bauer) take him in and protect Lyle from the outlaws as Swann tries to figure out not everything is what it seems. You can watch the whole film here-



Now, I bought and watched this rare and rather costly Anchor Bay edition of ‘Timerider’ around six years ago (I’m sure all the DVD geeks that understand the awesomeness of that last statement are now reading this article with anger). I remembered it as being entertaining enough for Saturday afternoon type fun. Any cinematic merit (cinematography, great performances, a sharp script etc) is not something to expect from ‘Timerider’. Dear and Nesmith seemed to be more focused on the action and driving the silly but exciting story along. If you are a fan of time travelling seventies/eighties films like me then you get the idea. For instance, when the scientists identify the date they sent Lyle Swann back to its November 5th. This is also the same date Marty McFly was sent back to in Back to the Future and the arrival date of H.G. Wells in ‘Time After Time’ which further establishes the sort of ‘geeky’ territory you are entering.


I do however think that both Nesmith and Dear took the casting and overall look of the film seriously. For all of its slightly dragging, less engaging moments, ‘Timerider’ does have a unique atmosphere and occasional grand scenery that mirrors the work of past westerns from veterans such as Sergio Leone and John Ford. The cast seem to be having some effortless and rather quite tongue-in-cheek fun too; sometimes the film seems to be a playful harmless send up of the very same Westerns that influenced it. The accents are ridiculous, the dialogue straight-forward and the characters are comic book-esque.


Fred Ward is a reliable, likable leading man which he has proved before in other silly eighties action film staples such as ‘Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous’. He plays the ‘fish out of water’ Lyle Swann in a naive humorous manner of never asking anybody why they are so amazed at his gadgets or even what year is it, but would rather be seduced by the first lady he sets his eyes upon and take care of his beloved XT500 Yamaha. The violent cowboy outlaws or the fact the locals keep referring to him as ‘El Diablo’ (Devil in Spanish) doesn’t give Swann any hints whatsoever.  


***SPOILER*** (Not quite a spoiler but do not continue to read if you want to be fully surprised by the film)


This brings me to the infamous twist. Yes the twist that has been imprinted on my mind for all these years because it’s just so…well how could I put it…bugged out. There’s no other way to describe it. It comes right at the end of the film and wow is it far-out. You’ll be rushing to IMDB boards in seconds trying to clarify if what you just witnessed was true and not just some random part of the film that you imagined. While the film for me is quite pleasant and goes along at a satisfying pace, I can see for others where it may drag and come across as too implausible to fully get involved. I do recommend that you please stay with it though because the unexpected startling reveal will have one in awe whether they were a fan of the film or not. We laugh at Swann and his oblivious ways throughout but at the end realise just how oblivious the viewer is too. Don’t get me wrong, the sudden turn of events does not elevate ‘Timerider’ to masterpiece status or anything, it’s just very sneaky and mystifying in its own way. Considering just how restrained and conventional the build up is, the ending provides a darker aspect of the events that have occurred before it. Try not to guess too much about what the twist is too as it won’t come as much as a surprise…but you knew that already.

Although I would say ‘Timerider’ deserves to be found it would mainly be due to those seeking fun eighties Sci-Fi films. Otherwise I would purely say it’s due to the fact that the ending is just so unexpected. Ride on Mr. Swann.


Lee Fairweather