Psychomania (1971) DVD Review

Psychomania DVD CoverPsychomania is a British horror film from the 1970s, directed by Don Sharp. Although you are  unlikely to find any streaming options on Amazon or YouTube,  the film is pretty easy to get hold of on DVD.

Although the plot summary in this Psychomania review may contain a few spoilers, I’m not going to give too much away. I have to provide a certain amount of information about the storyline though, to help you decide if Psychomania is a film you would like to see.

As for me, I love Psychomnia and was thrilled when I realized it was available on DVD. If movies about violent zombie biker gangs are your sort of thing you might like Psychomania too.

There are no special features or hidden extras on the DVD. I will tell you that upfront. In fact, there isn’t even a menu screen. Once the disc is inserted there are a few intro-screens and then the film just plays automatically.

The first scene shows a gang of bikers riding around a stone circle, in the fog. It is quite an eerie-looking sequence and when the music kicks in it only adds to the effect. The person who chose the soundtrack for the film chose it well. It’s perfect.

The gang is called The Living Dead. Its leader is a guy called Tom Latham (Nicky Henson)and The Living Dead don’t seem to have an ounce of respect for anything or anyone. The members are extremely violent and cause mayhem wherever they go, forcing cars off the road, and riding through pedestrian districts where they knock people over like skittles. And that’s just in the first few minutes of the movie! The Living Dead members are not nice people but,  as you get into the film, it hard not to begin to like them.

Tom lives in a large house with his mother, played by Beryl Reid. Tom’s mother is a medium and from the first moment the camera shows her, sitting at a table and surrounded by black candles, it is apparent that she is no stranger to the black arts. The only other person in the house is the family’s mysterious butler, Shadwell.

Tom has an unhealthy obsession with the idea of dying and then returning from the dead. The fact that neither his mother nor Shadwell ever seems to get any older may be the reason for this.

Tom is also extremely keen to learn what secrets are hidden behind the door of a locked room in the house. There could be dangers involved though. His father died inside it.

Although Tom’s mother is not keen on him entering the room, when Shadwell provides him with a protective amulet, she grants her son’s wish.

Once inside the room, Tom experiences what can best be described as some very strange shit, is unable to find the door, and loses conciousness.

In the next scene, he is still unconscious and lying on the sofa. Thinking that he is still out for the count Mrs Latham and Shadwell discuss the secret of returning from the dead. Only to hear the words: “Thank you, mother.” They turn and see a very smug Tom standing with his arms folded in front of him.

Tom is doing a ton (100 mph) when his bike crashes through the railings of the bridge and down into the river. The gang are mortified and Tom’s girlfriend, Abbey, asks for Mrs Latham’s permission to bury him in their own way. With her permission, they do just that. They dig a hole in the middle of a local stone circle, known as The Seven Witches, and bury him there, still sitting on his bike. Before they cover him up they sit very hippy-like, singing songs and making wreaths of flowers. It’s a bit strange considering their earlier behaviour.

Nicky Henson in the burial scene from Psychomania (1971)

The scene where Tom rides his bike out of the ground is excellent! He’s back and as bad as ever. Only now he’s indestructible too.

Tom manages to cause enough trouble right from the start and goes on a mini-killing spree. Then, when he shares his secret with the gang, things get much worse. There’s soon a gang of psychotic zombie bikers all revved up and raring to go.

Psychomania is one of my all-time favourite horror films. It has a great soundtrack and storyline along with a very capable cast.

Denis Gilmore and Nicky Henson as Hatchet and Tom in a scene from Psychomania (British horror film about a zombie biker gang).

Nicky Henson is perfect in his role as the leader of the gang and Beryl Reid is an excellent choice as the mother of the man that would be dead. She seems both maternal and sinister at the same time. That’s no easy feat.

If you decide to watch Psychomania and are familar with popular 80s TV series, keep an eye out for a young Robert Hardy (Siegfried from All Creatures Great and Small) playing one of the police detectives.

Psychomania is quite violent at times, but it was made in the 70s, so it is still pretty tame by modern standards. In fact, now I come to think of it, I can’t remember seeing a single spot of blood anywhere in the movie. Psychomania works just fine without it though. You can have horror without blood. Much of the horror element in Psychomania comes from the dark atmosphere created by the soundtrack, the actor’s portrayal of their roles, and the way the full shebang was filmed. Somebody knew what they were doing and did it well.

It may be a horror film but Psychomania has a little humour in places and some of the scenes are quite surreal. So violence, horror, and a few laughs too. This 70s horror film has it all but if you are used to all the special effects modern offerings provide, you may find it doesn’t provide enough  thrills.

CAST

Nicky Henson … Tom Latham
Mary Larkin … Abby Holman
Ann Michelle … Jane
Roy Holder … Bertram
Denis Gilmore … Hatchet
Miles Greenwood … Chopped Meat
Peter Whitting … Gash
Rocky Taylor … Hinky
Robert Hardy … Chief Inspector Hesseltine
Patrick Holt … Sergeant
Alan Bennion … Constable
John Levene … Constable
Beryl Reid … Mrs Latham
George Sanders … Shadwell
Jacki Webb … Mother
David Millett … Father
Linda Gray … Grandmother
Andrew Laurence … Grandfather
Roy Evans … Motorist
Bill Pertwee … Publican
Seretta Wilson … Stella
Denis Carey … Coroner’s Assistant
Stanley Stewart … Petrol Pump Attendant
Lane Meddick … Mr. Pettibone
June Brown … Mrs Pettibone
Ann Murray … Motorist
Fiona Kendall … Monica
Ernest C. Jennings … Blind Man
Martin Boddey … Coroner
Heather Wright … Girl with Parcels
Penny Leatherbarrow … Woman in Police Station

 

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