Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the horror feature PSYCHOMANIA (1973) by director Don Sharp. To best describe the story, I will use my own plot summary:
“A gang of motorcycle hooligans make a deal with the devil that will allow them to live forever, if they agree to kill themselves first.”
Right from the top, there is a decent amount of nonsense about the story as it bounces from deals with the devil, frogs, the undead, gang shenanigans, and melodramatic lovers. The funny thing is, even though that list of what is in this film is rather long, I still feel as if not much happened. Much of my problem from that standpoint is that there were a lot of scenes devoted to the ruffians killing themselves, proving they could not die, or just plain causing trouble in the small towns. These elements got so much focus that things like explaining some of what was going on with the lead’s mother fell by the wayside. Sure, there were hints to some deeper mythology, but these glimpses were quickly forgotten in the midst of motorcycle carnage.
I will say this in this movie’s favor, I appreciated the way they used the motorcycles. There was an interesting image early on of all the bikes riding around a Stonhenge-like field of monuments that was a nice juxtaposition of the ancient with the new. Since these cyclists were obsessed with the occult their motorcycles became sort of like their version of a witch’s broom which they used to ride into towns, cause mayhem, and then quickly fly away. I liked how they married together the old rituals with the modern hipsters to create something wholly their own.
Granted, the acting of the main characters is not much different than that of many British movies from that era. It seems like most pictures from this time period rely a lot upon the idea of subdued feelings or implied depth without really showing much of anything. It also does not help any that the more seasoned actors are in supporting roles that never become that fleshed out. Sure, there are moments where the young cast gets to do some actual acting, but for the most part the musical cues portray how they are feeling more than their dialogue or expressions.
All that being said; the score is absolutely the best part of this piece. I was on board with the music from the opening notes and dug it all the way through to the final crescendo. Within the feature there was also a rather memorable folk song that proved to be a highlight in and of itself. Seriously, if one were to take nothing else from this review, at least take the fact that this film has one fantastic score.
All in all, there are issues with the story, but there is some interesting imagery that plays nicely into the mythology. I wish the more veteran actors had been given more screen time to flesh out the backstory a bit, but the younger members were the focus and they barely had anything that allowed them to show off their acting chops. The musical cues spoke more to the roles than the actual acting did and the score itself was the real highlight of this picture. Fans of movies like Easy Rider (1969)or Quadrophenia (1979) will find this to be of a similar, though slightly more occult, nature.