Psychomania, a cult classic film, known to some as The Death Wheelers to both horror fans and cinemagoers in general obtains a brand new re-release from Arrow Video, a movie, which bikers enjoy; and yet continues to evade the capture from incarceration obscurity. This movie definitely lies in the murky depths crossing wildly over multiple genres, riding free with abandonment and disregard for the rules of cinema, it does though contain a limited appeal and hence that baffles the actors of the film to this day, and fascinates the fans. These fans continue their rabid mentality, purchases the leathers used in the movie, which echo back to the 1920s and 1930s in Britain, to the motorcycles, which thoroughly not Harley Davidson. Director Don Sharp known for The Kiss of the Vampire, Curse of the Fly uses a script from writing duo of Julian Zimet and Arnaud d’Usseau, who penned Horror Express (1972) consequentially mark this as their last entry into the horror genre. Now, honestly, the movie does not contain bloody killing, and the conceptual design of ‘zombie’ not exactly used correctly, the bikers do die but resurrect themselves, in fine condition, but look at many vampire films, the victims died reborn without blemish. The movie approaches the death and Satanism with a morbid humor, which eludes many from the clutches of the sinister and macabre enjoyment.
Tom Latham, the leader of the biker gang The Living Deadwhich enjoys scarring pedestrians, police and other motorists, with no other cares or concerns in life. The central theme of the film features a frog-worshiping cult concerning Tom’s mother Mrs. Latham (Beryl Reid) who made a sacrifice upon his birth, honored by dignified butler Shadwell (George Sanders) who finds crosses offensive but his backstory not fully explained – but who really cares, the movie works without all the details covered. Tom (Nicky Henson (The Conqueror Worm (1968)) gives a tremendous performance as a young man tired of rebellion and toying with destruction, using the knowledge and a mysterious room to understand the graveyard frog of the power of the afterlife. He learns the secret of willing himself back to life, becoming immortal all from suicide. His crew learns that they can become immortals too, if they have no fear when they die, some of them do the in the most creative manners to escape life, jumping out windows, from a plane, off a bridge – twice two different ways! Once back, the insanity keeps going running over baby carriage and causing more chaos, however, producers order no smoking and other vices because the censors never approve of the feature. Abby (Mary Larkin), not dedicated to the cause of dying, she’s more of a snowflake amongst the dirty snow, while a fumbling bumbling Chief Inspector Hesseltine (Robert Hardy) tries to stop Tom and his gang.
The picture quality and framing all presented nicely with magnificent work from cinematographer Ted Moore, whose known credits included work best picture films and many James Bond films, as well as the 1977 horror film Orca. In addition, a bit of sour news connects itself to this movie in the form that 1950 Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actor George Sanders, committed suicide shortly after completing this movie. Some try to connect the two together, as a cause and effect and it cause him misery, however, he loathed giving interviews, refused autograph requests and actually enjoyed the perceived notion of himself as a rude person. One of the key elements aside the collection of leather jackets and pants of this movie, comes from the skull-helmet, which even now used to make a statement whether it’s the Predator masks to full concept film and fantasy designs.
The stunts filmed in impressive style and design including the scene of Tom bursting out of his grave on his motorbike (buried by his gang upright on his motorcycle). Sharp’s film excels with strange atmosphere and psychedelic elements reflective of the time. A key song played at the burial Tom, entitled “Riding Free” considered by many as a great biker tribute, performed originally (but not in the movie) by Harvey Andrews. While the movie perhaps lacks a true bonding with the gang of friends, and the polish seems faded, it does not matter the movie carries forward for fans. As the rudeness often associated with the bikers mentality, far removed from the production well before the cameras rolled, again wanting to please both producers and censors. So why does the film still ride proudly years later, it’s a question that still is unanswered, except many notable visual scenes, and biker flicks face it, always welcomed.
Arrow Video, the new challengers to dominate the horror genre market with their well-designed DVDs and Blu-rays, again delivered a quality package, which includes supplements pulled from the Severin Films’ 2010 DVD release. The film contains delicious amount of campy charm, wrapped into a warped product for only the most passionate fans to line up for the flick, chuck full of plenty extras.