– November 11, 2021
You have to pay attention while watching this movie. Only a few things are outright stated; viewers have to fill in the rest.
The bikers are NOT zombies, unless you want to argue that Dracula is a zombie.
The Living Dead is the name of a gang of ne’er-do-well motorcyclists who’ve never been in serious trouble with the law. When the movie opens, they’re taking up the roadway, which pisses off a motorist. Tom, the leader, and his girlfriend Abby decide to ‘blow [the driver’s] mind’ by riding right at him so that he’s forced to veer off the road and goes through the windshield. All that happens is that Tom’s mother gets a phone call warning that her boy will be arrested if he keeps up his antics. Most of the trouble they cause (before they die) is more annoying and juvenile, which may explain why nobody ever presses charges: take time off from tending the shop to go to court because they knocked over a display?
Tom’s father died mysteriously 19 years ago, and the room in which he died has been locked all that time. His mother is not an evil woman, despite her contract with the powers of darkness. Shadwell, the butler, did not come to the family through any terrestrial employment agency. By threatening to have his gang go on a tear, Tom compels her to let him into the room. Inside, he has a vision of his own past and something happens offscreen that scares him so much he panics and then faints. While he’s recuperating, he hears his mother lamenting his fate AND the crucial information he wants to know. Yes, dear Tom is cognizant of his mother’s activities and knows enough to make use of what she said.
He commits suicide shortly thereafter, to the dismay of his friends. He’s buried in the local stone circle, The Seven Witches, which seems to be on the family property. After which he resurrects and goes to a pub rather than home. He cadges change from a woman and calls his mother to tell her that he has a few things to do before returning home. We’re left to figure out what those things are. It’s obvious that they didn’t include killing at least six able-bodied men or the woman who gave him change.
Things speed up after this. Tom reveals himself to his gang, who agree to join him. The first is Jane, and after the gang is arrested, she helps Tom literally break them out of jail (killing two constables in the process). All but Abby kill themselves, and all police can think when the bodies vanish is that someone’s stealing them. When Abby attempts suicide and is rescued, the police have the idea of using her as bait. Which does not go well for them.
The gang is now out of control, and Tom’s mother realizes that she must stop him. This means breaking her contract and suffering the consequences. As Tom attempts to coerce Abby into suicide in The Seven Witches, his mother and Shadwell perform the ritual. The bikers join the Seven Witches: turned to stone as punishment. (According to folk belief in Britain, many stone circles are people or supernatural entities frozen in place because of wrongdoing.)
There’s very little onscreen violence, certainly nothing explicit, by modern standards. When the police at the morgue are murdered, the camera pans from the live detective and officers waiting around to end back at the empty body-cabinets — now filled. Nor do we see Tom’s rampage outside the pub or he and Jane killing the two constables. Even Jane murdering a baby in a greengrocer’s is obscured by the pram and other objects.
George Sanders lost his long battle against depression and dementia shortly after completing this movie. His health had been failing for some time, and he may have suffered a stroke. He checked into a hotel near Barcelona and overdosed on Nembutol. (If he’d completed a comedy, nobody would be trying to link his death to it.)
– November 12, 2021
When People think of cult B movies, they tend to think of the golden age of American cinema, the late 40’s early 50’s and the start of the 1960’s,and when British films are mentioned, it’s Hammer that is the studio most mentioned. and for good reason, they produced classic after classic.Psychomani ranks among the classics of the B movies, and ranks alongside Hammers own attempts to update and make groovy their films with the films 2Dracula AD 1972″,and the psychological thrillers “Straight on till morning” and ” And soon the darkness” as one of the best of that era. It’s worth mentioning that. Beryl Reed is quite the forgotten Queen of these kind of movies, appearing in the other cult classic Beast in the Cellar, and she delivers the daftest of lines with the gravitas and conviction that only a consummate actress could muster, and once more inhabits the role she’s playing.If you love cult films, then this is one to add to your collection
– November 13, 2021
This BFI dual BLU/DVD release of PSYCHOMANIA comes HIGHLY recommended. A unique film revolving around undead bikers spouting daft dialogue whilst sharing screen time with acting stalwarts Beryl Reid and George Sanders. It shouldnt work, the individual elements on the whole dont work BUT as a whole its great fun. The musical soundtrack is superb, the story moves along at a good pace and is fun, oh and the stunts are top notch. The most bizarre aspect for me was Robert Hardys terrible accent, the usually reliable actor really delivers a stinker of a performance here. Extras are great with superb interview footage from Nicky Henson and the other bikers, oh and great featurettes on the music, the guy who sang the theme song AND the long established business that supplied the biker outfits, great release, buy it…
A. W. Wilson
– December 11, 2021
I honestly didn’t know how many stars to give this awful film. Yet, it isn’t really awful, just very very odd. The BFI have gone to a lot of trouble to produce a dual format DVD/BluRay with an informative booklet, and loads of extras that are for once interesting. I just wonder why they considered the film worth all the effort.The transfer is very good (plenty of info as to how that was done) with good picture (16.9 ratio fills my whole screen) and sound. This, by the bye refers to the DVD, not the BluRay, which I haven’t seen. The film just has to be seen to be believed, and what really struck me was the excellent stunt riding/chase work supervised by Gerry Crampton. For the budget and period it really is excellent. The acting? Well they all give it a go, it’s just hard to accept Ann Michelle as a tough Biker girl who wants to “lead the gang” (such a gang as they are). Did I enjoy it? Yes, but be warned. A work of Art it isn’t, but fun…Yes. Recomended with severe reservations. (The price is currently very good ). (P.S. These BFI Dual format releases have optional English Subtitles, but please…Can anyone out there tell me how I can move from “off” to “on”??? I failed on “Odds Against Tomorrow” and only suceeded here after 5 mins of frustration and an inability to remeber how I did it!…Anyone?).
James C Girasa
– December 26, 2021
This review is for the Blu-Ray release of ‘Psychomania’ released by Arrow video in February of 2017.This movie also goes by the name of ‘The Death Wheelers’ and ‘The Living Dead.’
I had previously watched this movie a few years earlier in standard DVD format.
This is an excellent release and fans of the movie will definitely want this.I give this release ‘only’ 4 stars because I just don’t feel the movie itself was a good enough movie to rate the release 5 stars. So let’s call it it 3 stars for the movie and 5 stars for presentation(picture quality and extra’s) for an average of 4 stars.So basically if it’s only the picture quality and extra’s you care about then go ahead and give it 5 stars.
BLU-RAY: The picture quality is decent though not fantastic. This probably has more to do with the way the movie was filmed as opposed to a poor job by Arrow. This release has both the standard and high definition versions.
EXTRA’S: A big positive is quite a few extra’s. However I felt that the ‘Return of the Living Dead’ featurette was easily the best of the extra’s.The extra’s included are:Return of the Living Dead – A featurette on the making of ‘Psychomania.’ This was made somewhere around 2010 and features interviews with many of the actors from the movie.Interview with Nicky Henson – This is a very recent interview. Arrow gets a thumbs up for including it but the interview is essentially unnecessary. If you watched the ‘Return of the Living Dead’ featurette first you will get almost no new information. Henson basically tells the exact same stories that he told in his 2010 interview. Off the top of my head the only thing I noticed that was new was his story about his kids. I’ll give the producers the benefit of the doubt and assume that they had not seen the previous interview or surely they would have asked Henson to tell them some other stories or included other snippets.Sound of Psychomania – An interview with the composter John Cameron.Riding Free – An interview with the writer of the song ‘Riding Free,’ by Harvey Andrews. What I learned here was that Andrews voice was dubbed into the movie and the song was not sung by the actor singing in the movie.Hell for Leather – A short featurette on the company that provided the outfits for the movie.Remastering Psychomania – A short featurette, self-explanatory.Booklet – There is a nice booklet included which is nicely done.Finally, there is a trailer and subtitles are included.
While some of the above featurette’s are not all that exciting I still consider it a big positive for anything that adds to the knowledge of how the movie was made. So for that, Arrow a gets plaudits.
PLOT/SUMMARY: Tom Latham (Nicky Henson) is a leader of an English biker gang called ‘The Living Dead.’ Tom lives with his well to do mother (Beryl Reid) and their butler, Shadwell (George Sanders from The Village of the Damned…this would be his final movie). Tom’s mother is a medium and speaks to the dead with assistance from Shadwell. Shadwell, we find out early on has something to do with either Satan, evil, sorcery or all of the above. He shows an aversion to the cross.Nicky inquires about his father who died about the time when he was born. There is a secret room in their mansion that is kept locked. He is given the key. He enters and then has troubling visions and passes out.Nicky now believes that all he has to do is believe that he is going to come back from the dead and he will. So he promptly goes and kills himself. After he is buried with his motorcycle he comes riding out of his grave. He tells the gang members what has happened and they agree to do the same thing. We find out that you must believe you are coming back from the dead or you won’t. If you have any doubts at the time of your death then you will stay dead. Once you come back you are basically immortal, like a zombie or ‘the living dead’ if you will (thus, the gang’s name).The gang does very little destruction despite their intentions. The harass people and mess up a supermarket. Most of the killings they commit take place ‘off screen.’ They are either implied or we are told of them.Tom insists that his girlfriend Abby joins him and his fellow ‘living dead.’ Abby fails once and Tom gives her an ultimatum which brings us to the climax of the movie.
THOUGHTS/OBSERVATIONS: I enjoyed this movie even though it is obviously not a great movie.
There was, in my opinion, one truly startling scene. That was when the police chief and his fellow officers end up in the morgue taking the place of ‘The Living Dead’ members. This caught me off guard and came as a bit of a shock as it was so unexpected. I thought at the time that it was just a matter of time before the chief solved the crimes.
It was never made clear exactly what the connection was between frogs and the afterlife, at least to me. This left me a bit confused. Especially the ending. I was never really quite sure what happened there. I haven’t checked to see if the movie was based on a story or book.
Nicky’s death scene was very poorly thought out. I know they wanted a different death for each person but riding a bike into the river is just not quite the way to go. There would be no instantaneous death that way. He would have been better off riding in front of a train or any of a million other ways.
I felt that the main idea of being brought back to life just because you believed you would come back was a bit far fetched…for more than just the obvious reasons! If they were going to go with that premise they should have at least tied it to some sort of sorcery or talisman not just your belief.
I always wonder, in movies where people are immortal, what would happen if they got their heads cut off or legs. Then again, I am probably getting ‘too deep’ for a movie of this type.
George Sanders commited suicide shortly after making this movie. There are rumors that he had a copy of the movie in his home at the time and he may have just finished viewing it. Some jokingly say that had something to do with it but it is unclear and probably not true.
Despite the sensational title of the movie….you never get the feeling that the biker gang depicted is all that ‘psycho.’ They just don’t give off a rugged appearance and at times actually appear more effeminate than dangerous.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Highly recommended for fans of the move. Also recommended for fans of the genre.To rehash what I said at the top, I give it 5 stars for extra’s, 3 stars for the movie. I give 4 stars for the picture which I felt could have been crisper but since I have no expertise in film quality and restoration I will give the benefit of the doubt and assume that it can’t look any better due to the way the movie was originally filmed.
Thanks to Arrow for this excellent release.
– January 1, 2022
A wonderfully cooky movie telling the unlikely tale of a gang of British rural bikers who discover the secret of the living dead, if you do yourself in but completely believe you are coming back then you will, and when you do you will never grow old and will be indestructible.I guess you could describe this as a kind of earlier version of The Lost Boys on motorbikes.Made in the early seventies it sports some classic cast members such as Beryl Reid, George Sanders (in his last role) and even Bill Pertwee from Dad’s Army.It’s not meant to be a comedy but you will laugh your head off all the way through, especially when they have a biker funeral and sing their song “Riding Free”.Bluray is excellent picture and sound and the extras are fun.
– January 21, 2022
This is a fun cult horror film! BFI has put out a very clean solid blue ray transfer of this Don Sharp directed zombie epic. It is loaded with fun extras and the trivia track is well worth having on while viewing.The story it self is quite silly but who cares it is the fun and mayhem that make this a wonderful horror comedy.On a sad note this was the last film for George Sanders who had an illustrious career in films playing heroes, cads, and villains. He would commit suicide shortly after making this film. He played Simon Templar in a series of B movies in the 40’s well before a certain TV series.But this film is a fun way to spend a cold night or rainy afternoon watching an enjoyable old zombie film.
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