BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Motorcycles and gas-gobbling b-grade movies go hand in hand. These are the high-octane flicks that cost little to make, yet remain unforgettable. Slap their images on the larger than life drive-in screen and walk away and producers can count their dollar bills all the way to the bank. Of course, it always helps for them to be seen here in the States.
Throw in a gang of bike-riding zombies into the mix and you have the makings for an outrageous horror film that is just this side of being completely off its rocker. Welcome then to the Highway of Hell that is Pyschomania. We’ve long only seen in it an edited version on late night cable. Arrow Video’s handling of the film for its 1080p debut changes all that.
Originally released in 1973, Hammer veteran Don Sharp (The Kiss of the Vampire, The Devil-Ship Pirates) presents a weird and wacky ode to the undead biker with an unyielding sense of anarchy. Psychomania is the “K-KRAZY” your cinematic experience has been missing.
Full of witches and life-granting magical frogs, this interpretation of the living dead on two wheels is a stuntman’s wet dream. Thanks to a Mommy-made prophetic pact with Hell itself, one upper-class delinquent finds both he and his bike can return from the other side for an unending ride of hellfire and damnation.
After a dull day of overturning shopping carts and riding through supermarkets, Tom Latham (Nicky Henson) decides to end it all (not really) and rides his bike from a high bridge straight into the river below it. In the next scene, we see him hilariously buried while still on his bike. Don’t worry, though. His friends dug the grave deep enough.
The graveyard chuckle and extended set-up is worth it. Trust me. His ascent out of the grave – like a rocket – is indeed a sight not to be soon forgotten. Shake and bake, baby! Shake and bake.
Couple that with the stranded motorist he runs over in the cemetery AND his borrowing of money to call his mother from a payphone to tell her that he’s alive again and you have all the ingredients you need for a cult favorite involving whiny zombies. Yeah, Psychomania is now my go-to joint for traffic thrills and suicide spills. If the biker who decides to jump from a plane without a parachute doesn’t get you chuckling, nothing else here will.
Psychomania is full of quotable dialogue as Tom makes the rounds, convincing his former Living Dead gang members to kill themselves, and has them join his midnight ride of ghoulish intent. It is a film that, while played straight, is non-stop entertainment. The suicides from the gang members are uproarious and extreme and not without a chuckle or two. One scene, in which a police officer writing a ticket for the bike, ends with a hilarious SPLAT when he demands that the owner of the bike, who is 14 floors above him, come down to talk to him. You can almost hear the drumroll.
Sure, this is Benny Hill material, but because of its straight-laced performances – including satanic turns by George Sanders and Beryl Reid – all the madness comes across in a bizarrely disturbing way. From the opening two-minute slow motion ride around a witch’s site to the Satan-kissed frog pendent that brings forth the resurrection of the Living Dead biker gang, Psychomania is a low budget two-wheeled spin through the hell that is British suburbia.
Now, someone over at Arrow Video please tell me where I can find a pair of those oversized skull and crossbones-inspired goggles!
MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime: 85 mins
Director: Don Sharp
Writer: Julian Zimet, Arnaud d'Usseau
Cast: George Sanders, Beryl Reid, Nicky Henson
Tagline: Seven Suicides - and they roared back as The Living Dead.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Yes sir. Exactly the same story from all of them. Two motorcyclists jabbing at his tyre with a knife."
Theatrical Distributor: Scotia International
Release Date: January, 1974
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: February 21, 2017
Synopsis: A gang of young people call themselves the Living Dead. They terrorize the population from their small town. After an agreement with the devil, if they kill themselves firmly believing in it, they will survive and gain eternal life. Following their leader, they commit suicide one after the other, but things don't necessarily turn out as expected....
Home Video Distributor: Arrow Video
Available on Blu-ray - February 21, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.66:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region A
Arrow Video presents Psychomania on 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 from a 2K restoration effort provided from the preservation negatives. The results are stunning and crisp and totally unexpected for a low-budget film like this one. The 35mm black and white separation masters have been digitally scrubbed and combined to offer the best looking color print positive. The hues are properly detailed and bright and the saturation offers an evenly handled look at the fashions of the time period. The sound – presented in the original 1.0 mono audio is adequate for this release.
Complete with new cover art by Twins of Evil, this 2-disc set from Arrow Video is how cult films should be treated. The supplemental items are full of archival interviews with actors Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Holder and Rocky Taylor, and the costume designers, NEW “making of” featurettes, and even an interview with the singer of the lead song that expresses fealty to Latham as he “rides his sweet machine like a bomb.” A 39-page Collector's booklet containing writing by Vic Pratt, William Fowler and Andrew Roberts is included in the first pressing only. Yeah, you NEED this one.
- Nicky Henson Interview
- Return of the Living Dead
- Sound of Psychomania
- Riding Free
- Hell for Leather
- Remastering Psychomania
- Theatrical Trailer