A terrorizing motorcycle gang named The Living Dead wreak mischief and murderous havoc amongst the local residents. When Tom, the gang’s leader, learns of his family’s dark agreement with the devil, he seeks to reap the benefits of the agreement’s eternal life bestowed upon his family, but before claiming a long-life of unstoppable hog-wild carnage, Tom must die first and truly believe he’ll return from the afterlife. Convincing the rest of the gang to kill themselves in order to return from the grave and live forever was easy, except his girlfriend Abby who wants to actually be alive. As the torment rips through Abby involving the man she loves, not all satanic bound agreements can last forever and Tom, Abby, and the rest of the gang are caught in a contract that’s all but binding.
“Psyhomania,” also known as “The Death Wheelers,” is a stunt-heavy horror film from “Kiss the Vampire” and “The Face of Fu Manchu” director Don Sharp and written by “Horror Express’” Julian Zimet and Arnaud d’Usseau. “Psychomania” is a fun, b-horror feature from the swinging London era of the 1970s and rosters a young cast of some seriously talented actors in Nicky Henson as Tom, Mary Larkin as Abby, and Ann Michelle as Jane Pettibone while also being graced with two veterans, George Sanders, who voiced Shere Khan in “The Jungle Book,” and Beryl Reid from “Dr. Phibes Rises Again,” and were most likely the most expensive actors on set, being well worth the cash to balance out a relative unknown cast at the time.
Yes, this film is British. Yes, this film is horror. But, no, “Pyschomania” is not a Hammer Horror film. The Don Sharp film lightly tip-toes through being a horror film with only the supernatural element placing the feature in the thriller category, but the PG-rated horror has other admirable qualities that certainly differentiates itself from the blood-heavy, frighten laden Hammer films. For instance, a story about an undead motorcycle gang should obviously entail motorcycle stunts and “Psychomania” delivers with surprisingly various top-notch stunts with, and without, motorcycles, involving dedicated stunt men and women challenged to be engaged in nearly all stunts, and whereas the blood does not run thick and heavy like with many fright flicks, the bikes certainly do and revs a different, yet welcomed, change of pace.
If the intent here was to make a serious film, the mark was missed by a good margin. Outdated and obsolete, “Psychomania” is the epitome of aging with dated hairstyles, dated clothing, and dated dialogue. If the intent was to be campy, Sharp and his team of willing participants hit the center of the bulls eye. The premise of a motorcycle gang committing themselves to a suicide pact only to come back and continue their barrage amongst humane society while choking out nearly everybody they feel tramples upon their aimless and ferocious cause seems like an outright folly. Who knew that in forty years time that “Psychomania” would be a British cult favorite, sparking a well-deserved upgrade Blu-ray and DVD combo release from the British Film Institute, also known by as the BFI.
BFI Flipside presents “Psychomania” on a Blu-ray and DVD combo presented in the original aspect ratio 1.66:1 and scanned and restored in 2k from preservation negatives. The 1080p Hi-Def Blu-ray runs on a BD50 gigabyte at 24 frames per second with a PCM mono audio mix. The PAL DVD runs about the same, near 25fps, and sports a Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio mix. I was presented the DVD version for review and I must say the original print looks immaculate. The lens flares in the corner from previous releases have been extinguished. The colors and skin tones have never been more vibrant through the three layers of the black and white master copies containing yellow, blue, and cyan. The mono mix clearly states a purpose and goes through the ears without muddling and much defect. The BFI have also spared no expense on the bonus features that include various interviews with Nicky Henson and other cast, an interview with Harvey Andrews on the “Riding Free” single, a Hell for Leather documentary about the company who supplied the leather for the cast, a short remastering “Psychomania” segment, and other various extras that dive into British culture. I was a bit disappointed with the Sound of “Psychomania” segment as the track portion in the interview with film composer John Cameron seems to be overlaid by something totally off-the-wall and we’re unable to get the full 9 minute audio from the interview. The bonus material rounds out with original theatrical trailer and a nice, vividly colored illustrated booklet with new writing by Vic Pratt, William Folwer, and Andrew Roberts. BFI’s “Psyhomania” release is one of the best re-releases to hit the region 2 market and will re-hit the youth once again on it’s climbing cult success that branches off far from the bloodlust of 1970’s British horror.
Daryll, a New York City night shift janitor and decorated Vietnam war veteran, becomes obsessed with beautiful female reporter and wealthy socialite Tony Sokolow. When Daryll claims to be a key witness to a murder of one his business building’s high profile tenants, a once in a lifetime opportunity opens up to meet Tony when she’s assigned to cover the murder and as Daryll pours his heart out to the reporter, he’s also torn by his claim that could place his war buddy friend Aldo, a hapless former employee of the recently deceased and the prime suspect in the murder investigation, in jeopardy even more. Is Aldo the killer or is the mystery much deeper, tied to a world unforeseen by Daryll whose working in the depths of the building’s janitorial confines?
Hot off from her success from Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” Sigourney Weaver goes from sci horror-thriller to mystery-thriller and alongside her is up and coming co-star William Hurt in Peter Yates’ 1981 mystery drama “Eyewitness.” The film sparks a string of obsession suspense features that would span a decade and firmly place the genre into a popular notoriety among audiences who couldn’t get enough of the peeping tom debauchery. A hefty roster of talented actors also co-star, some on the verge of stardom to the likes of Hurt and Weaver, including Christopher Plummer (“The Sound of Music”) in the prime of his career, the crazy eyes of James Woods (John Carpenter’s “Vampires”), an un-grayed Morgan Freeman (“Se7en”), Kenneth McMillan (“Dune”), “Mission: Impossible” television series’ Steven Hill, and Pamela Reed (“Kindergarten Cop”).
Performances all around are phenomenal as every actor and actress cultivates their character’s purpose in the story and you can surely experience the humble beginnings to some of the biggest A-list celebrities of today; however, Hurt’s performance was one of the only concerning factors. Hurt’s portraying a modest, perhaps slightly traumatized, Vietnam veteran with an afar obsession toward an attractive public figure and his presentation was overly awkward and certainly creepy too the point where I even felt embarrassed and uncomfortable. What made the situation more bizarre was the verbal and facial exchanges between Hurt and Weaver’s characters. Tony didn’t quite seem affected by the oozing creepiness this supposedly good man seeps from every pore of his skin and she, in fact, embraces his forward, if not crossing the line, affections that would certainly warrant a restraining order in today’s society. Maybe social interactions vary from generations and decades, but this type of relationship building dialogue and scenes didn’t produce the appropriate type of chemistry between Weaver and Hurt reducing the strength of their bond.
The Steve Tesich script strummed the strings reminiscent to my viewing experience of George A. Romero’s “Land of the Dead.” Yes, you read that correct – “Land of the Dead” – and what does this zombie horror film have in common with “Eyewitness?” Well, in the 2005 film about the continuous decline of humanity in a zombie apocalyptic world, Romero had written a social commentary about the separating of social classes where, even in a dying world, the rich stayed safe in their loft, sustaining an obsolete lifestyle, and the poor suffer below their feet living in the present, but in the end, anyone and everyone is fair game for being unprincipled and for the undead. Tesich’s script does the same without being lavishly upfront and without the hordes flesh eating zombies. Beneath the obvious murder mystery lies the merger of the classes as Dyrall and Tony eventually fall for each other, but their friends and family on either side condemn the relationship, making the statement numerous times that a janitor absolute can not fall for someone as wealthy as Tony. James Woods’ Aldo becomes just another example out of many where a court-martialed and discharged Marine with erratic behavior and struggling with living a middle class life becomes suspect number one in a murder case, but with a victim whose profession was international trading, the pockets might be a bit deeper and with a laundry list of ill-will individuals.
Signal One Entertainment releases “Eyewitness” in the UK for the first time on Hi-Def region B Blu-ray anywhere with a 1080p presentation in a widescreen 1.85:1 format. The video quality is far superior than, of course, it’s DVD revival with the restoration of much of the natural color tones without a hint of compression artefacts or obvious image or edging enhancements from the 35mm stock footage. The English LPCM audio 2.0 track is fair, full-bodied, and well balanced with really no issues, especially not with composer Stanley Silverman’s lively score. Signal One Entertainment certainly knows how to treat a classic film providing a slew of extra features including an audio commentary with director Peter Yates and film historian Marcus Hearn from 2005, an audio only conversation with the director along with film critic Derek Malcolm and another conversation with another film critic Quentin Faulk on a separate extra feature. Composer Stanley Silverman discusses his approach to scoring “Eyewitness” and there’s also an alternative VHS presentation of the film under one of the original titles “The Janitor.” Original trailers and TV spots round out this robust bonus feature cache. “Eyewitness” on Blu-ray is a must own with a clean and refreshing version of a this classic whodunit thriller from Signal One Entertainment!