Blu-ray Review: Psychomania



British cinema in the ’70s was a glory time for horror with both Hammer and Amicus capturing the foggy mornings. These two weren’t capturing all the scares around London. A smart producer could make his own version of a Hammer Horror in an effort to crack the exploitation distribution market. Psychomania mixes the horror coming out of England with the motorcycle flicks that were still popular in America. Did this mixture of a zombie bikers click as a cult film?

Terrorizing the English countryside are a pack of bikers in black leather with skull painted on their helmets. The Living Dead are like the Hell’s Angels if they had been cast out of Oxford. But even with their natural English social graces, they’re still menaces on the road. Tom Latham (The Conqueror Woman‘s Nicky Henson) leads his outlaw crew. He’s also loaded since his mother (Dr. Phibes Rises Again‘s Beryl Reid) is a big time spiritualist with wealthy clients that want to talk to the other side. Her assistant (Rebecca‘s George Sanders) has the feeling of an English butler yet he has his own dark forces at work. Tom wants more out of his band of leatherbound bike riders. He discovers through his mother’s guidance a way to come back from the dead. The big catch is that you have to willingly and without reservation commit suicide. Tom goes through with it although he still has to be buried. He’s put into the grave on top of his motorcycle. The other members of the gang are shocked to see Tom ride out of the dirt and into the light. He’s now immortal. He wants them all to kill themselves so they can be the most frightening motorcycle gang in the world. But do they really have what it takes to be a suicide cult? And how long is this immortality going to last?

Psychomania is a fine British supernatural romp. Visually it looks great since Oscar winning cinematographer Ted Moore (From Russia with Love) is capturing the motorcycle mayhem. John Cameron’s soundtrack sets a spooky mood even with rock roots. Director Don Sharp helmed a few films for Hammer including The Kiss of the Vampire. The cast is like Masterpiece Theater gone to Hell. It’s easy to get lost in the mystical weirdness as Tom and crew discover their new powers as the undead gang. While this film was made independently, it deserves to be as admired and enjoyed as much as anything from this era released by Hammer and Amicus.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the detail in the black leather worn by the Living Dead. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The highlight is getting to fully hear John Cameron’s score. The movie is subtitled for the British accent impaired.

DVD has all the features of the Blu-ray at a lesser resolution.

Interview with Nicky Henson (13:57) talks about his early years of making B movies in between plays for a local company. He signed onto the film after reading in the script that he’d be riding a Harley-Davidson. Sadly the producer couldn’t afford it. He has a strange tale of what they had to do for George Sanders’ chair.

Return of the Living Dead (25:02) is brought over from a previous Severin release of the movie. They reunite cast members including Nicky Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Holder and Rocky Taylor. They all reflect how low budget the film was. Most are shocked that the film had such a big cult following. Stuntman Rocky Taylor would go on to double for both Roger Moore and Sean Connery in Bond films.

The Sound of Psychomania (9:06) permits John Cameron to explain how a proposed jam session turned into him being the composer.

“Riding Free” (6:25) recounts how singer Harvey Andrews was made the funeral song. He was disappointed that another actor lip synched his voice.

Hell For Leather (7:52) visits Derek Harris, co-owner owner of Lewis Leathers. This is the London motorcycle clothes store that were worn in the film. They were dressed to take the road. There’s talk of the Bronx jacket.

Restoring Psychomania (1:47) allows you to appreciate the effort to make this Blu-ray look so nice.

The original British trailer (2:50) promises a motorcycle game rising from the grave.

Arrow Video presents Psychomania. Directed by: Don Sharp. Written by: Arnaud d’Usseau & Julian Zimet. Starring: George Sanders, Beryl Reid, Nicky Henson, Mary Larkin & Roy Holder. Running Time: 95 minutes. Rated: PG. Released: February 21, 2017.

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