Not Ready for "Hammer Time"? Psychomania (1973)
Not ready for "Hammer Time" is a limited series dedicated to British/European horror films, produced outside of the infamous Hammer Studios brand, yet the unique concepts akin to England's House of Horror, are seen as Cult classics.
Psychomania (aka The Death Wheelers)
Directed by Don Sharp
So, what is this "Psychomania" all about?
In this 1972 Proto-Punk thriller about an unruly gang if bikers resurrected from the dead
Tom Latham, a psychopathic Teenager yet loves his Mother, a median who performs seances for shits and giggles and girlfriend Abby, is the leader of a notorious motorcycle gang called "The Living Dead " who wishes to cross the other side and by doing so, both he and his fellow delinquent biker bros, off themselves, only to come back to life and cause rampant chaos within an English town.
Tom is fascinated with immortality and what better way to achieve it by asking his Mother, who obliges Tom's wishes as with his late father. Tom and all (Did I say "all"?) of members of the Living Dead commit suicide in various yet clever ways; drowning, skydiving without a parachute, riding into incoming traffic, jumping off a bridge or leaping from a tall building in a single bound!
Sorry, I couldn't resist.😅
This is where the film gains momentum as Tom and his gangbangers go on a random killing spree with their actions getting the attention from the Police.
If there is one minor gripe I have about Psychomania, it would be the omission of graphic violence, whether it's the Living Dead killing themselves in brutal fashion, or killing people in general. However, there were some scenes that left it up to the viewer's imagination. One in mind, utilizes impressive cinematography when the camera pans from the inspector and police officers ready to ambush The Living Dead, only to end up on the slab. but the one scene I found very disturbing, was Jean running over a baby carriage....with the infant inside!!!😬Those wacky brits!
What's appealing about Psychomania, is an enjoyable Counter culture thriller that is an English equivalent to the American schlock Biker films of the late sixties, but with a high conceptual spin when you introduce witchcraft as its foundation.
The acting is palatable thanks in part to established thespian George Sanders who hated the film so much that he killed himself during post production! Mary Larkin as Abby, is slightly mischievous when going along with the Living Dead's, um.. shenanigans until, developing this crisis of conscience when realizing how far Tom and his gang has gone- leading to being torn between her love for him and wishing for all this to soon end.
Most of the praise goes to the recently deceased Nicky Henderson gives off a menacing, yet hopeless romantic performance as Tom Latham. There is a bit of childlike innocence when he’s excited about taking a frog home from the cemetery, yet this unrelenting sociopath following within the footsteps of Clockwork Orange’s Alex Delange , sans raping and hedonism.
The psychedelic soundtrack is still fun to listen to however, I can't say the same for that silly ballad "Riding free".This is one of those rare chalkboard screeching moments that will force you to reach for that mute button.
With its phantasmagoric visuals, solid acting, cool stuntwork, a simple yet effective story and finale, Psychomania is deserving and worthy of being labeled as a Hamner Production if not a spiritual successor. See what I did there?It's cult status is a testament that a good horror film doesn't need to rely on gratuitous sex or violence to be spooky and enjoyable. ☠☠☠ and a half, out of Five.
Psychomania is now available on Blu-Ray from Arrow Video and also Amazon Prime Video.
"In a world", where motion picture studios heavily rely on Comicbook films, sequels and of course remakes, would Psychomania qualify as a candidate for a remake?
Personally, no. Part of the film's charm was that psychedelic tone and aesthetic from the early Seventies, even with its sanitized violence, it should remain "self contained " and not some quick cash grab benefitting from a well liked film. Sure it will include amounts of gore, profanity and sex scenes but void of nuance when you sign unqualified screenwriters and directors onboard. Hell. if Marvel/Disney can add them to a Ghost Rider reboot as a cult gang of zombie bikers, or introduce them as the new Dreadnoks for the upcoming G.I.Joe reboots? Sure, why the hell not? Just kidding of course.
Although Suspiria (2018) was a decent attempt, this remake wasn't warranted and the same could be said for Psychomania besides what would you call it "The Riding Dead"? Ba-dum-pum-pss