Psychomania (1973)

JULY 31, 2012


I've lived in my current apartment for almost 7 years, and in that time I've never fully cleaned my room. I'll dust the desk or something every now and then, and I TRY to keep all my junk (screeners, magazines, bills, etc) under control, but it's usually a losing battle. So since I'm on vacation this week, I figured I'd clean it top to bottom, starting to the right of the door and working my way around. Without turning this into a blog on my cleaning, it became a bigger project than I originally imagined (bookcases were moved, for a hint), and I was working on it almost right up to the time I left for Psychomania (aka The Death Wheelers) at the New Beverly.

Needless to say if you're a regular HMAD reader, this meant I ran an even higher risk than usual of falling asleep during the movie, as I was pretty exhausted from moving furniture, running back and forth to the living room (where things would be put "out of the way" and then needed again) and cleaning for 10 hours straight. And that, my friends, is the best compliment I can give the flick, as I didn't doze for even a second - my brain knew better than to deprive itself of another potential all-time favorite WTF moment.

I almost hate to spoil it, but it's just too good and it's only 8 minutes into the movie to boot. Our main character is talking to the family butler, and suddenly demands he answer three questions as he opens up a bottle of beer. "Why did my father die in a locked room? Why don't you ever seem to age? And what is the secret of immortality?" As he finishes the last one, he suddenly produces a giant sandwich (the beer disappears) and takes a huge bite. The randomness of his questions coupled with a hoagie that apparently shapeshifted from a bottle of suds combined to make the quintessential Grindhouse night scene, as the theater erupted in confused laughter, causing us to miss the next 10-20 seconds of dialogue.

There were others throughout the film, which proved to be one of the most entertaining movies I've seen for Grindhouse night in a while (not counting the Hong Kong nights, which are their own separate category of WTF). The nutty plot was a big selling point - our biker does indeed learn the secret to being immortal and convinces the rest of his gang to follow suit, with varied results. Apparently you cannot hesitate even for a second - you really have to WANT to die, or else you, well, will. Kind of an ironic rule. Anyway, those who do come back become even bigger jerks than they were before death, so while they used to settle for knocking over traffic cones and goosing female pedestrians, now they're causing major damage and even killing folks on occasion - including a baby, I think.

This angle isn't really explained; I just chalked it up to Pet Sematary rules and thought nothing else of it. What's awesome is the hilariously inept police investigation to stop them, which includes having the one biker who didn't kill herself to PRETEND that she did so that they could nab the others when they came to wake her up. So all of the cops just pretend they're dead as well, laying inside the morgue with their eyes shut. Of course, this doesn't work because she gets up and finds the bikers before they arrive there - thus the cops just laid there while she got up and left? Amazing.

Oh, and frogs. Frogs are everywhere in this movie, because they appear to be the source of the resurrection power that this family uses for their own enjoyment but seemingly nothing else. Seriously, they're all immortal, but all they do is chill in their big British house all day instead of having fun. I kind of love that idea, that they've possibly done everything that they want and are now just kind of bored. Sadly, the guy playing the butler committed suicide shortly after the film's production, and his suicide note actually chalked his actions up to being bored with life - I'm glad I learned that afterward or it might have given the viewing experience a melancholy feel.

It also has the best in-movie song I've heard in ages. When it starts it seems like it's just the soundtrack selection, but then we see one of the bikers ("Chopped Meat") leaning against a tree, playing guitar and singing the tune. Here it is for your enjoyment (seems to be out of sync):

I also loved the instrumental credits theme, which set a very creepy, ominous mood that the film mostly avoided. There are some minor bits of full on terror (including an off-screen massacre that's kind of disturbing if you think about it), but mostly it comes off as a thriller with a darkly humorous touch. It also feels like a regular biker movie at times, as we're treated to three full riding scenes that are quite enjoyable. As I've mentioned in the past, there aren't too many action/horror films period, let alone ones that work, but I think this one did a fine job of balancing the action bits (including - yes! - a vehicle falling down a hill and exploding) and the horror elements. The random comedy is a very nice bonus.

Severin put this out on DVD a while back, with a new transfer and some bonus features that I would love to watch RIGHT NOW. But we got something even more special - an original Technicolor print! Now, I'm no genius when it comes to this stuff, but from what I understand, Technicolor prints do not fade - the colors are as vivid as they were the day it was printed. And I don't doubt it - it's not exactly a bright and colorful movie, but the colors/detail really popped in high contrast scenes (like the green frog with a yellow/white/gray background). The tradeoff is that the print was forty years old, so it was scratched to hell. Wasn't a major issue - the prints they show on Grindhouse night are always a bit "lived in" so it was nothing new, and it was worth it for the upgrade in color anyway.

I wonder how well it would play at home when you're by yourself. Some of the nuttier stuff might not have been as funny without it being magnified and projected on a 40 foot screen for a hundred people, and there are some draggy bits here and there. Hopefully it's just as fun - I'm sure theatrical screenings are rare, which makes me even happier I opted to go (I almost considered skipping it so I could relax at home for a bit and then just watch something on DVD) as I got the best possible experience for it.

What say you?


  1. I actually saw it at home and didn't take to it too much. I don't know, I'm not sure I really grasped the insane badness of it all. Looking back over my own review, apparently I didn't like how it never committed to being an over-top-comedy or a straight horror movie. In retrospect, that sounds like a weird thing to say because I definitely remember a lot of the craziness. I might have to watch it again someday.

  2. I don't know about this movie in particular, but Grindhouse night at the New Beverly sounds pretty cool. Usually these types of films are more fun with a crowd!

  3. I wasn't able to make it to the New Bev for these two, but I watched it earlier today nonetheless... enjoyed it quite a bit. (Haven't watched Witchmaker yet.) Thanks for finding the Riding Free song segment video: one of my favorite moments in the movie.


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