Release Date(s)1974 (February 21, 2017)
Studio(s)Benmar Productions/Scotia-International (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B+
When a British motorcycle gang known as “The Living Dead” find a way to come back to life after committing suicide, they wreak havoc all over London, terrorizing and killing many of its citizens.
Known originally as The Death Wheelers, Psychomania managed to gain cult status, mostly through repeated viewings on late night TV and as a VHS horror staple. The movie is recognized today as a bizarre but ultimately fun entry into the genre. Like many horror movies released on VHS throughout the 1980s, Psychomania had a great box cover (which is how I first saw it). Of course, in those days, that didn’t necessarily mean much, as the actual content was frequently vastly different. In the case of Psychomania, there was definitely someone in the movie riding a motorcycle, but the skull seen on the cover was on the helmet instead. (Close enough.) Truth be told, the movie is just as good as I remembered it, perhaps even better. It’s horribly dated, and has a ridiculous storyline, but you could tell that the people behind it had a sick sense of humor. It feels playful, more in line with the original Tales from the Crypt than anything else. It’s no work of art, by any stretch of the imagination, but it has a creepy edge and some memorable scenes.
The transfer for Psychomania is sourced from a 2K restoration of the original 35mm black and white separation preservation masters. Unfortunately, all of the original camera negative, interpositive, and internegative elements are either missing entirely or in poor condition, so a ground-up restoration from the black and white records was carried out (at great expense, no doubt). For those keeping track, this is the same transfer found on the BFI Region B Blu-ray release and, judging from screen grabs, there appears to be no major differences between the two. It’s a gorgeous presentation, much better than I would have expected. Detail is strong throughout with even grain levels. Colors are well-balanced with some bold primaries, and skin tones that appear natural. Black levels are deep with excellent shadow detailing, and both brightness and contrast levels are satisfactory. There’s also no major film damage on display other than some mild flicker, nor are there any signs of digital enhancements or manipulations. The lone audio option included is an English mono LPCM track. It’s of the same caliber with clear dialogue, strong sound effects, and a driving score. There’s some nice depth to the presentation and no noticeable hiss or dropouts to be heard either. It’s very clean and clear with robust capabilities, but nothing totally beyond its single-channel nature. Overall, it’s a terrific presentation. Subtitles are also included in English SDH for those who might need them.
The supplemental material on this release carries over most of the content from both Severin Films’ DVD release and the BFI Region B Blu-ray release, but not all of it. There’s an interview with Nicky Henson; three featurettes (Return of the Living Dead, The Sound of Psychomania, Riding Free); Hell for Leather, an interview with Derek Harris; a short Restoring Psychomania featurette; the movie’s theatrical trailer; an insert booklet with writings on the film by Vic Pratt, William Fowler, Andrew Roberts, and Christopher Koetting; and a DVD copy. Not carried over from those previous releases is an introduction to the film by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander; the Wilson Bros. subtitle trivia track; the Roger Wonders Why short film; and the Discovering Britain with John Betjeman travelogue.
Often an undervalued and mostly forgotten piece of British horror cinema, that somehow made its way to the U.S., Psychomania is definitely a movie worth revisiting. Arrow Video’s Blu-ray package may not be thoroughly conclusive, but it definitely offers up enough content to warrant picking it up and checking it out.
- Tim Salmons