Psychomania Blu-Ray Review
*George Sanders as Shadwell
*Beryl Reid as Mrs. Latham
*Nicky Henson as Tom Latham
*Mary Larkin as Abby Holman
*Roy Holder as Bertram
*Robert Hardy as Chief Inspector Hesseltine
*Anne Michelle as Jane
Story: A motorcycle gang called “The Living Dead” uses magic to become immortal and uses it to terrorize and murder innocent people.
It’s hard to put a movie like Psychomania into a genre and have it be correct. That’s probably these days it’s mostly labeled as a cult film. Other places say it’s a horror film but it doesn’t meet the criteria at all. At best, it’s a biker exploitation film, even if there’s little in the way of exploitation. It aims to be something like a British take on The Wild Angels with a devil-worshipping twist. And yet it ends up just being a movie that happens to have bikers with supernatural forces that may be due to the devil.
The film follows a biker gang called The Living Dead. They cause a lot of problems for the area where they live, attacking people and causing mayhem. Their leader, Tom, learns that by “believing you won’t die”, he and his friends can kill themselves and come back from the dead as immortals. It has something to do with a bargain with evil that his mother made, but it’s never really explained or given much thought except to move the plot along. The only one that doesn’t seem to go along with it is Tom’s girlfriend Abby, but she’s still seemingly fine with the wanton mayhem.
If the goal is to be a horror film, it fails simply because it’s not scary. More than that, it doesn’t appear to even try to be scary. Perhaps the thought of a gang terrorizing people is scary in concept, but in execution it leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of people cite the “kitsch” and cheesy elements as reasons to watch, but they never feel intentional. The tone of the film is dead serious, even in moments that seem wildly out of place for the plot.
The pacing is also all over the place. It seemingly takes too long to get to the point, and once Tom finally converts his gang, it’s time to set up the film’s conclusion. There’s one particular moment, near the end, in which Abby wakes up in the hospital with no real defined cause. She has a dream sequence of being attacked then wakes up after what was apparently an attempt on her life. Whether that was her or her friends is never made clear. From then on, a plan is set into motion by police that we never see play out as it quickly moves to the end to wrap things up. That’s the kind of thing that happens often, as it moves from one moment to another without any flow or momentum.
The entire film feels taped cobbled together out of possibly interesting elements. A seemingly immortal biker gang terrorizing people could make for a good horror film. But the way this movie plays it, it’s a collection of scenes loosely connected by the theme, carried only by the odd atmpshere and the charismatic performance of Nicky Henson. If nothing else, you can see why Tom is the leader of this gang, because he exudes charm even when he’s being despicable.
Psychomania isn’t exactly a bad film. There are a lot interesting elements and the performances are pretty good. The problem is the film is both repetitive and disjointed, and never really has a chance to go anywhere meaningful before it reaches its somewhat abrupt conclusion. It’s entertaining or effective at what it sets out to do, because it’s never clear what it’s setting out to do.
This blu-ray has a LPCM Mono 2.0 track that sounds pretty good. I didn’t notice any real errors, outside of general age making it not as pristine a track as it could be.
Given the Herculean task Arrow Video had of remastering this film, it’s amazing that it looks as good as it does. There are still some issues, which is understandable. It has some weaker color moments here and there, likely do to the cobbling together. There is also some fuzziness. However, it’s still a very solid-looking transfer and again, it could have been a lost worse. It’s presented with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1.
Interview with Nicky Henson: It’s a pretty self-explanatory title. The man who played Tom chats for fourteen minutes about his time on the film and his own career.
Return of the Living Dead: Severin Films put this together in 2010 for their DVD release of the film. Arrow’s worked with Severin in the past, so it makes sense to see the feature get imported for this set. It runs at about 25 minutes and features interviews with Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Holder and Rocky Taylor.
The Sound of Psychomania: A nine-minute interview with composer John Cameron, as he talks about the score.
Riding Free: This is another music feature, an interview with the man who came up with the film’s folk song, Harvey Andrews.
Hell for Leather: This is an interview with Derek Harris, the owner of Lewis Leathers. The company supplied the Living Dead’s costumes in the film, which indeed was one of the more interesting aspects. They had a unique, punk rock-look about them.
Restoring Psychomania: Arrow Video had to remaster this film using black and white separation master source elements and somehow restore it as a color film. They did it, and this is the feature that talks about the process. The other film elements they found were worn or damaged.
Restoring Psychomania (1080p; 1:47) is a short piece documenting the heroic efforts to rescue a color presentation from black and white separation master source elements.
You also get a theatrical trailer.
Overall it’s a decent selection of features, with multiple interviews from nearly everyone in the cast and behind-the-scenes material.
Special Features: 7.0