‘Seven Suicides – and they roared back as The Living Dead’
Psychomania – aka The Death Wheelers – is a 1972 British horror film directed by Don Sharp (The Kiss of the Vampire, Witchcraft, Curse of the Fly) based on a screenplay by Julian Zimet [as Julian Halevy] and Arnaud D’Asseau (the pair scripted Horror Express the same year). It stars George Sanders, Beryl Reid, Nicky Henson and Robert Hardy.
In September 2016, Psychomania was released as a dual format Blu-ray/DVD by the British Film Institute (BFI). Special features:
- Newly remastered in 2K from the original negatives
- New interview with actor Nicky Henson
- Restoration featurette
- Fully illustrated booklet
Tom Latham enjoys riding his motorcycle with his girlfriend and loves his mother, but he is no ordinary fellow. He is an amiable teen psychopath, clearly modeled on Alex of A Clockwork Orange fame. Like Alex, he has an unusual pet (a frog) and a distinctive catch phrase, “hello, little green friend.”
Tom is the leader of a violent teen gang, which ride motorcycles and dabble in Black Magic, and call themselves “The Living Dead”. In a similar vein, his mother and her sinister butler get their kicks out of holding séances in their home. With her help and following in his father’s footsteps, Tom makes a pact with the devil to return from the dead.
One by one, he and his fellow bikers commit suicide with the goal of returning as one of the “undead”. Not all succeed but the ones who do, gather together at a secret place called “The Seven Witches” (a circle of standing stones), after which they continue to terrorise the locals…
The bike stunts in Psychomania are actually pretty impressive, Don Sharp directs with his usual efficiency and there is a sly sense of humour running throughout – it’s clear that no one was taking this entirely seriously.
The result is a film that feels like some sort of psychedelic hallucination of a horror film – one of several weird, not-quite-right attempts to wed the British horror movie to a swinging youth that none of the filmmakers understood at all.
David Flint, HORRORPEDIA
“Everyone’s entitled to change their mind, and this film, which until recently I had consigned to the rubbish heap of history, has now rocketed into my top 10 films list. Why? Well sit still and I’ll tell you… It’s a top slice of 70s kitsch, seemingly unaware of its campness and a lot of fun. It’s got some great chase scenes in it. It makes no sense at all.” British Horror Films
“We’re definitely not talking Hell’s Angels here, not even the comparatively domesticated Hell’s Angels of today. Before they kill themselves and sell their souls to the devil, about the nastiest thing they can come up with is driving their bikes around in a pedestrian courtyard, knocking packages out of people’s hands and slapping attractive girls in hot pants on the ass.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“True, the film is more preposterous than genuinely chilling, and at times played for as much gallows humour as can be wrung from the material by one of the strangest casts assembled for a British B film … The music has dated gloriously along with the rest of the film: from fuzzed-out bogus psychedelia to the funeral’s Satanic hippy dirge, a wondrous pile of muddle-headed plop that equates death with freedom from Squaresville.” Schlock Treatment
Buy soundtrack: Amazon.co.uk
“The music’s atmospheric and actually reasonably creepy. I enjoyed the biker-funeral-folk-song interlude just ’cause I’m an old folkie. The scene of Tom bursting out of his grave on his motorbike is pretty darned impressive. The black-magic frog imagery is quite interesting, from a visual point of view. I haven’t seen frogs used as an image of fright other than in the seventies classic, Frogs!” Boris Lugosi, Girls Guns and Ghouls
“With its quirk, psychedelia, and rich 70s score, Psychomania is a weird gem and endlessly fascinating.” Really Awful Movies
“Arrant nonsense of the macabre sort, sometimes irresistibly amusing.” Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell’s Film Guide
George Sanders – The Lodger; Village of the Damned
Beryl Reid – The Beast in the Cellar; Dr. Phibes Rises Again
Nicky Henson – Witchfinder General; Vampira
Robert Hardy – Demons of the Mind; Dark Places
plus Mary Larkin, Roy Holder (The Land That Time Forgot), Patrick Holt, Denis Gilmore.
The Death Wheelers (USA)
John Cameron’s soundtrack score, performed by ‘Frog’ has built up a minor cult following. British punk-goth-psychedelic rock band The Damned included a tribute track to the film titled ‘Psychomania’ on their 1986 album Anything.
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