Monday, October 31, 2011


Psychomania (aka The Death Wheelers)
D: Don Sharp

British gang learns how to become immortal--through suicide

In the intro to the (fantastic looking) dvd version, Fangoria editor in chief Chris Alexander mentions that this was the first horror video he ever purchased; I could say the same, only mine was on an LP-recorded twofer with the utterly unrelated (and far less entertaining) "Alice Sweet Alice." This one has a special place in my heart. It's part "Angels from Hell," part "A Clockwork Orange," AND it's a horror film! With some great black comedy!
British gang the Living Dead, with prophetic name and bad ass skull-painted helmets, are led by Tom (Nicky Henson), the wealthy and nihilistic son of a medium. Through his mother and her... butler? master? personal assistant? mentor? Shadwell (George Sanders), Tom gains spiritual knowledge, including the secret to becoming immortal: Killing yourself while believing 100% that you will return. There are the expected conflicts and plot devices, but the highlights of the film are the bikers (with great names like Hatchet, Gash, and Chopped Meat [the latter of whom looks like an evil Danny Bonaduce]) killing themselves.
"Psychomania" is an absolute blast. Tom is an incredible bastard, a cross between Alex from "Clockwork" and Brian Jones, Mary Larkin is perfectly corny as his girlfriend Abby, and although Sanders is kinda sleepwalking through his role*, everyone else is solid as well... While some of the horror elements come off a bit dated, they're mostly quite good and are blended well with comedy, both intentional and un-: Tom's burial, sitting astride his motorcycle (and I guess funerals at national historic sites are ok in England) is ridiculous, but his rising is cool as shit looking. The opening sequence is brilliant.
In a fairly recent interview in Rue Morgue, Henson said he was disappointed by the bikes; he wanted to do the film based on the first lines of the script, depicting the guys on Harleys. On set, he was disappointed to see British motorcycles. As an American viewer, I disagree. It seems more fitting to me that they be on their own country's bikes. Still, having the spoiled rich dude on the crappiest looking Triumph of the bunch does kinda stand out as a distraction.
Apart from the godawful "Riding Free" (which I'd occasionally torture my wife by earnestly singing), the soundtack, by a band called Frog, is mostly outstanding.
This one gets its pick of any four candy bars in the bowl, and not that "fun size" bullshit, either.

* This was also his last. Shortly after this film, George Sanders killed himself, but, as the Pschotronic Encyclopedia of Film points out, "did not return on a motorcycle."

1 comment:

  1. I saw this on TV in '77 (I was six) and it STAYED with me. Now own it on dirt cheeep VHS.