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Psychomania (1973)

Arrow Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/21/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/31/2017

I know that this is going to be another one of those times when I come off sounding like an old man, but youngsters need to realize that there was a time before video-on-demand. Having thousands of movies at your fingertips is a relatively new thing. Even after the dawn of the home video revolution in the 80s, there were still many movies which weren't readily available. Therefore, movie fans like myself were forced to simply read about obscure and unconventional. The problem here is that movies don't always match their description, or worse, the movie that you imagined is much better than the actual movie (this happens quite a bit). I'd read about Psychomania for years and now that I've finally seen it, I know that A) it was nothing like what I imagined and B) it's a kooky movie.

Psychomania features a motorcycle "gang" called The Living Dead, which are lead by Tom Latham (Nicky Henson). Tom is a rich kid, whose Mother (Beryl Redi), is a medium. She believes that when people die, if they want it bad enough, they can come back to life. Tom buys into this and decides to kill himself, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend, Abby (Mary Larkin). Following Tom's accident, his fellow gang members bury him and, sure enough, he emerges from the grave soon afterwards. This encourages the other members of The Living Dead to consider following Tom's example. Meanwhile, resurrection has given Tom a true sense of invulnerability, and he begins to leave a trail of bodies across the countryside.

Again, I'd seen Psychomania mentioned in many a horror movie guide and the description was more of less the same; motorcycle gang discovers that they can come back from the dead. So, what did I picture? A group of long-haired, bearded, tough-looking guys riding Harley-Davidsons who turned into grotesque zombies. Well, this movie is actually nothing like that. The Living Dead motorcycle gang is more like a motorcycle club. While some of the guys have longish hair, they are more stylish than thuggish. The rakish Tom appears to be in the gang out of boredom than out of any desire to truly rebel. Jane (Ann Michelle) is fairly glamorous despite her motorcycle duds. Their motorcycles are glorified dirt bikes and far from being Harley Hogs. When the members of The Living Dead are resurrected...they look exactly as they did when they were alive. They aren't pale or greenish or decaying or anything. Clearly, the movie in my mind was far, far different.

So, the result is a movie which is far more interested in being mod than anything else. If it weren't for the subject matter, the movie would barely qualify as a horror movie. Instead, we get something which plays much closer to the first act of A Clockwork Orange, as we watch Tom and the gang terrorize the locals. Of course, this "terrorizing" consists of some relatively mild horseplay in which they ride through town and knock over vendor carts and steal groceries. Once Tom comes back from the dead, he does turn homicidal, but the violence occurs off-screen. And then we have Tom's Mother, who lives in a mansion whose interior is decorated like somebody's groovy pad. (What is that gold lamae looking stuff around the door?) The family worships frogs or something -- the supernatural aspects of the story are kept very vague, as the movie is clearly more interested on focusing on other things.

Not only was Psychomania not what I was expecting, I don't think that it's what anyone was expecting. Who signed up for a sort-of supernatural movie about a sort-of motorcycle gang which turns out to be an incredibly pro-suicide film? For all that I know, this is actually a treatise won what life was like for British youth in a pre-Thatcher world...but probably not. The result is a movie which isn't particularly exciting and certainly isn't scary, but it is unintentionally funny at times. (Why didn't they bury Tom all the way in the ground? What if a lawnmower had come by?) But, there is no denying that the movie is weird. If you go into Psychomania knowing that it's not a biker movie or a zombie movie, but a free-love era oddity which has an ending which almost works. If you are like me and feel like you've seen everything, give Psychomania a shot.

Psychomania should have gotten an award for devising a way to hide the stuntmen on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Arrow Video. The film is framed at 1.66:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing just a mild amount of grain. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. There are some mild defects from the source materials, but nothing which is overly distracting. The picture is somewhat soft at times, but the depth is appreciable. The Disc carries a Linear PCM mono audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 2.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are no dynamic effects here, but the score or the "roar" of the motorcycles never overpowers the actors.

The Psychomania Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. "Interview with Nicky Henson" (14 minutes) is a modern-day chat with "Tom", which allows him to share anecdotes about his experiences on the film. "Return of the Living Dead" (25 minutes) is a featurette from 2010 which contains several members of the bike gang, who reminisce about the movie's production. We hear from Composer John Cameron in "The Sound of Psychomania" (9 minutes). "Riding Free" (6 minutes) is an interview with Harvey Andrews, the guy who sings the seemingly impromptu, but detailed song in the funeral scene. "Hell For Leather" (8 minutes) features an interview with Derek Harris, whose company supplied some of the costumes for the film. "Restoring Psychomania" (2 minutes) does a terrible job of explaining how a surviving black and white print was used to bring the film back to life. The final extra is a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long