Psychomania (1971)

Psychomania is probably the froggiest satanic biker movie set in England that you’ve never seen. Or maybe you have and already know what kind of satan based hijinks await. Before hitting play on this, I naively figured (because while i could read about it that takes the fun out of it a little, no?) this was going to be more of a straight up motorcycle meets b-movie ala 1990: The Bronx Warriors. On the other end of the trip that is Psychomania,I can say that it never felt like I was watching a rip off of a larger franchise, as with Bronx Warriors, but instead a very original attempt. I guess technically it does try to emulate American motorcycle movies of the era such as Easy Rider and The Wild Angels, but it jumps right off the deep end into strangeness pretty early on and doesn’t feel anything like those movies. Filmed in 1971 at Shepperton Studios (where movies such as The Omen, Alien and most importantly, the cultural milestone that is Sylvester Stallone vehicle Judge Dredd were later filmed), Psychomania tells the timeless tale of a rebellious youth hellbent for leather and immortality, with a just a bit of mother knows best creepiness thrown in for good measure.

The biker gang The Living Dead spend their days terrorizing a small town in England while riding some of the most run down looking motorcycles I’ve seen in a movie that isn’t set in a radiation blasted wasteland. This gang of ruffians (if dudes who wear knitted afghan sweaters can be considered rough in any way) is led by the son of a local medium and i can only assume is ultra rich in a satanic old money sort of way. She and her butler are also really into frogs; I’m talking going over and above a healthy interest. This whole movie has a frog subplot that doesn’t ever seem to really resolve or deliver on anything other than adding more oddness to the film. I’m down with making shit bizarre for bizarres sake (and let’s face it, druuuugs) nine times out of ten, so this gets a pass from me.

Terrorizing this town isn’t enough for The Living Dead though, they seek to literally become their namesakes. This launches them into what seems to be one of the easiest “get immortal quick” schemes I’ve ever seen in b-movies. As long as you believe that you’ll come back from the dead at the time of your death, you will; Doubt, and death takes you. That’s a pretty solid deal! I mean, there’s a bit of a chance of failure if you doubt, but this isn’t like your usual live forever formula. No virgin sacrifices, no blood rituals. Not even a single candle. I’d probably go for it if I was in their position. The movie strikes a comically nihilistic tone at times, for instance when told the simplicity of the suicide plan, one of the gang members remarks excitedly “Oh man, what are we waiting for!?” My thoughts exactly. Cue one of the most entertaining suicide montages this side of Der Todesking, with the living dead enacting their plan in fairly imaginative ways. Psychomania is a great movie for a Friday night, a six pack and a few joints. Just don’t go in looking for some Dennis Hopper danger or exciting motorcycle action and you’ll do great.

Arrow did a great job on the transfer for this movie, it’s clean and doesn’t look like the mess one would expect from a movie of this age and pedigree. That said it isn’t overly cleaned up like that Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4k release from a few years back. You need a bit of grit; that’s part of the fun. There’s also a bunch of special features on this release for you to comb through, like i did, in the hopes of finding hints as to what was with all the damn frogs. You can grab this strange piece of the seventies on Amazon or maybe a physical store. Do those still exist?

-Scotty (@drunkgraveyard)

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