PSYCHOMANIA is one of those films that I remember seeing over and over on VHS store shelves for years…however I never bothered to rent it. I’m not sure why. I don’t remember picking up the box or reading about the film, although the imagery of the skull-shaped helmets stands out in my brain for some reason. So when Arrow and MVD teamed up to release the movie in HD, I figured it was time to give it a shot.
I have to confess I’m glad I didn’t watch this one back in the day. Despite its intriguing title and eye-catching cover art, this film did not do much for me. It’s not a bad film as a whole, but it’s extremely tame for a horror film, and it leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
If you are not familiar with PSYCHOMANIA, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:
The United States gave motorcycle-mad cinemagoers Easy Rider, The Wild One and The Wild Angels. The United Kingdom gave them Psychomania, the tale of zombie bikers run amok is southern England.
The Living Dead are a delinquent biker gang, fond of causing havoc on British roadways and making out in graveyards. Gang leader Tom (Nicky Henson) also has a Satanist for a mother, and when he discovers the secret of immortality, the name of his motley crew takes on a more literal meaning…
Directed by Hammer veteran Don Sharp (The Kiss of the Vampire, The Devil-Ship Pirates) and co-starring Beryl Reid (Dr. Phibes Rises Again) and George Sanders (Village of the Damned), Psychomania is a wonderfully offbeat gem, outlandish and eccentric in equal measure.
First, the good.
The film looks spectacular onscreen, thanks to the HD restoration. I found NO grainy scenes, even in the low-light shots, and the color pops vibrantly. The sound quality is solid as well.
Likewise, the acting is fairly decent, although I don’t recognize many names in the credits. George Sanders stands out because he has an extensive filmography, as does Beryl Reid, who portrays Tom’s mother. Reid holds a particularly dear place in my heart because she played Lady Lambourn in one of my favorite 80s comedies, YELLOWBEARD.
Now, the bad.
The story is simply never fleshed out enough to offer any kind of explanation for why the bikers rise from the dead. Sure, the audience is given hints at a couple of things, but even those offerings make you raise an eyebrow and go “Huh?” Similarly, some of the “facts” offered in the film are laughable, such as a certain species of frog that only grows in graveyards.
Also, the film has NO real horror aspects. The “zombie” bikers look just like they did prior to death: living, breathing human beings, with no rot or decay to indicate they are deceased. There’s no intensity, no scares, and, well, not much going on other than the gang disrupting downtown and doing little jumps on their motorcycles.
PSYCHOMANIA wasn’t for me, and I’m not sure if many horror fans will find it enjoyable, either. Still, it’s a nostalgic trip back to the early 70s, so some folks might like it. It will be available in a couple of weeks, should you decide to give it a look. The Blu-ray edition comes with some nice special features, such as:
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
• 2K restoration from preservation negatives
• High Definition (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original 1.0 mono audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Brand-new interview with star Nicky Henson
• Return of the Living Dead, an archive featurette containing interviews actors Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Holder and Rocky Taylor
• Sound of Psychomania, an archive interview with composer John Cameron
• Riding Free, an archive interview with Riding Free singer Harvey Andrews
• Hell for Leather, a brand-new featurette on the company who supplied the film s costumes
• Remastering Psychomania, a look at the film s restoration from the original 35mm black and white separation masters
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector s booklet containing writing by Vic Pratt, William Fowler and Andrew Roberts