Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Psychomania (aka The Death Wheelers) / UK 1973 / Directed by Don Sharp
I don't know what I expected from a film that had been described to me as a British biker-zombie movie, but Psychomania is, well, a bit weird. Set in an unnamed British town (apparently it was filmed in Walton-on-Thames) in the 70's it follows a young biker gang, who are calling themselves The Living Dead. They wear helmets/masks with skulls on them and cause all sorts of havoc on their bikes, riding round cemeteries, scaring the crap out of the locals and annoying the police. So far, so good. That's the kind of behaviour you'd expect from a teenage biker gang. But, then there's Tom, the gang's leader. He's a handsome young man with a pretty girlfriend, but he also has an unhealthy obsession with death and a mother who dabbles in the occult. To cut a long story short, his mum basically tells Tom that if you kill yourself without being scared of dying, you will not only return to the land of the living, but you will also be invincible. Tom's father apparently tried, but didn't believe strongly enough, so he just died. This of course sounds perfectly reasonable to Tom and his friends, so they start killing themselves in all sorts of crazy ways. And then they return. The Living Dead! See what they did there? If there's anything worse than a bunch of loud idiots on motorcycles, it's a bunch of invincible idiots on motorcycles. Apparently, if you're gonna be invincible, you also have to be mean, so they up the ante a bit. They ride their bikes through supermarkets, running over prams and things.

The only one with the knowledge and powers to put an end to the mayhem is Tom's mum, but that will mean sacrificing her son. The drama! Oh and then there's Tom's pretty girlfriend, who decides she doesn't want to commit suicide, something which doesn't go down so well with the rest of the gang. It's all perfectly enjoyable, but also more than a little baffling. Fair enough that the people become invincible, I can buy that…but the motorcycles? There's a scene where Tom says: "I've always wanted to drive through a brick wall" and then he does. He survives and the bike is also left without a scratch. I don't know much about motorcycles, but I imagine driving one through a brick wall would at least damage the bike a bit. Anyway, I suppose it's not a documentary. So, what is it? I think that is the film's main flaw. It doesn't quite know what it is. You get horror elements next to slapstick comedy, a pinch of occultism and some scenes that are purely for bike fans to drool over. It is an odd mix, but somehow it kind of works. It never gets boring anyway.

So, despite all its flaws Psychomania is a lot of fun and well worth a watch.

Here's a clip.

Psychomania on imdb

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