• Psychomania

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: 10/26/2010
    Director: Don Sharp
    Cast: George Sanders, Beryl Reed, Nicky Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore
    Year: 1973
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    The Movie:

    Hey, remember that Motorhead video for Killed By Death where Lemmy gets buried on his motorcycle only to ride out of his grave, kinda like on the cover of Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell, to grab his woman and ride off to raise some hell? Of course you do. It changed your life just like it changed mine. Well, Psychomania is the cinematic equivalent of that video. Literally. In fact, since it predates it, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that Lemmy and company were pretty inspired by this odd little British horror film, because they basically ripped it off (though in some ways, improved up on it).

    The film follows the exploits of a young biker tough named Tom (Nick Henson) who, along with his cute red haired girlfriend, Abby (Mary Larkin), rides in a motorcycle gang who call themselves The Living Dead (we know this from the hot pink letters that spell it out on the backs of their jackets). When not playing chicken with innocent highway drivers, Tom is trying to figure out just what it is that his mother (Beryl Reid) and her manservant, Shadwell (George Sanders), know about the ability to come back from the grave and how it relates to giant toads. Eventually, after entering a secret room that holds the details of his own father’s death, Tom learns that if he commits suicide without fearing the consequences, he’ll come back and not only that but he’ll be invulnerable. Before you know it, Tom’s driven off of a bridge into a river below and been buried, standing up, on his motorbike (you’re making the Motorhead video connection now, right?) only to drive out of the grave, grab his girl, prove to his gang that he is who he is, and start raising Hell. Or at least bothering people a lot, periodically killing off a few people at a bar.

    When the rest of Tom’s gang learn what he’s done and how he’s done it, a few more of them decide to follow suit and before you know it, there’s a whole gang of no good undead bikers with cool skeleton helmets riding around England and scaring women and children alike. There might be more to this than Tom realizes, however, as the police are slowly but surely closing in.

    Psychomania isn’t gory, nor it is laden with rampant nudity or crazy special effects but what it’s got it’s got in spades and that’s atmosphere and charm. A film that could only have been made in the seventies, the picture is a truly bizarre blend of genres, mixing up the zombie film with the biker film and throwing in some quirky supernatural elements as well, just for kicks. The performances are generally pretty good, with Nick Henson giving a solid lead as Tom, a veritable rebel without a cause type, with strong antisocial tendencies. He’s not Lemmy, but he’s got enough attitude to pull it off and as sinister as he gets, he remains likeable throughout the movie. George Sanders steals every scene that he’s in, playing every bit of his sinister screen presence for all its worth and delivering an enjoyably macabre turn as the mysterious manservant. The rest of the cast are fine, with some of the supporting cast making up the bike gang standing out in strange ways for various reasons. While they don’t really offer up star making performances, they add to the movie’s fun cast of characters nicely.

    The cinematography is pretty decent, particularly the opening sequence in which we see ‘The Living Dead’ circling on their bikes in a foggy cemetery. The movie’s lower budget shows through here and there but it makes the most of what it has and if it’s not particularly frightening, or for that matter logical, it’s still an entertaining ride.


    Severin’s disc notes that the negative for Psychomania is lost but their new 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer was taken from a print that was in pretty decent shape. The opening credits look a bit noisy but the rest of the film looks pretty decent. Expect to see a bit of wear and tear and minor print damage here and there as well as a healthy coat of film grain, but all in all the image is pretty strong. Colors turn out to be pretty impressive and well defined, with only some occasional blooming from heavy reds. There are no problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement – fans should be pretty pleased.

    The English Dolby Digital Mono mix sounds fine, with the film’s soundtrack coming through pretty clearly. There’s the occasional pop here and there but nothing too noticeable or distracting. The funeral scene where the hippy biker cohort (more on this in the extras section!) strums away on his acoustic guitar (anyone with a basic knowledge of how guitars work while find this scene pretty funny) sounds nice and crisp. There are no alternate language options or subtitle options offered.

    There’s no commentary here unfortunately but Severin steps up to the plate and offers up some pretty awesome featurettes. The first, Return Of The Living Dead, is a retrospective look back at the making of the movie that contains some fun interviews with Nicky Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Holder and Rocky Taylor. This is a really amiable discussion of making the film, what it was like on set at the time, and how it’s held on to a sizeable cult audience over the years. The Sound Of Psychomania allows John Cameron, the film’s composer, to discuss his role in the production and how he tried to make the music in the film reflect the content and the times. Riding Free brings Harvey Andrews in front of the camera to talk about the song he sings at the funeral, only to be replaced unknowingly by a lip synching actor at the last minute.

    Rounding out the extras is an optional, and very affectionate, introduction from Fangoria Editor Chris Alexander, the film’s original theatrical trailer, animated menus and chapter stops.

    The Final Word:

    Severin’s release of Psychomania, offering up the film in a solid anamorphic transfer and with some quality extras, is a good one and the movie itself is a lot of good, weird fun.