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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Don Sharp|
|Produced by||Andrew Donally|
|Music by||John Cameron|
|Edited by||Richard Best|
|Distributed by||Scotia-Barber Distributors|
Psychomania (originally released in the United States as The Death Wheelers) is a 1973 British outlaw biker horror film starring Nicky Henson, Beryl Reid, George Sanders (in his final film) and Robert Hardy.
George Sanders committed suicide after making the film. Henson says "The story goes that George Sanders saw an answer print of Psychomania in Madrid. Then he went back to his hotel room, killed himself, and left a note saying, ‘I'm so bored.’ In other words saying. ‘What the hell’s happened to my career? What am I doing? I’m old. I might as well go now’."
Tom Latham, an amiable psychopath and the leader of a violent teen gang, enjoys riding his motorcycle with his girlfriend and loves his mother. His gang dabble in black magic and call themselves "The Living Dead". In a similar vein, his mother and her sinister butler get their kicks out of holding séances in their home. With her help (and following in his father's footsteps) Tom returns from the dead. One by one, he and his fellow bikers commit suicide with the goal of returning as one of the "undead". One of them fails, but the ones who do return gather together at a secret place called "The Seven Witches" (a circle of standing stones), after which they continue to terrorize the locals.
- George Sanders as Shadwell
- Beryl Reid as Mrs. Latham
- Nicky Henson as Tom Latham
- Mary Larkin as Abby Holman
- Roy Holder as Bertram
- Robert Hardy as Chief Inspector Hesseltine
- Ann Michelle as Jane
- Denis Gilmore as Hatchet
- Miles Greenwood as Chopped Meat
- Peter Whitting as Gash
- Rocky Taylor as Hinky
- Patrick Holt as Sergeant
- Alan Bennion as Constable
- John Levene as Constable
- Roy Evans as Motorist
- Bill Pertwee as Publican
- Denis Carey as Coroner's Assistant
- June Brown as Mrs. Pettibone
- Martin Boddey as Coroner
- Heather Wright as Girl with Parcels
- Larry Taylor as Lorry driver (uncredited)
The film was shot under the title The Living Dead. It was filmed at Shepperton Studios in 1971 with some exterior scenes filmed in the (now demolished and rebuilt) Hepworth Way shopping centre and Wellington Close housing block in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.
Nicky Henson said "I was a mad motorcyclist," he adds, “I never had a car. So this script comes through the door and I open it up and it says, ‘Eight Chopped Hog Harley Davidsons crest the brow of a hill.’ I rang my agent and said, ‘I’ll do it'."
Henson said when he arrived on set he saw "eight clapped-out 350 AJS’ and Matchless BSAs. I said, 'Where’s the Harley Davidsons?’ They said, ‘You gotta be kidding?’ It’s the only show I’ve ever been on where there were eight mechanics working the whole time to keep the bikes fanning because they got ’em in some second-hand shop somewhere and they were falling to bits."
Henson said he did all his stunts in the film except three. He says the stuntman who performed them were injured after each one.
He says the script was written by "two expatriate Communist sympathisers" and that George Sanders' scenes were shot in ten days to save money as he was being paid more than anyone else in the cast.
Henson says Sanders "was great fun on the movie. We laughed and laughed and laughed and spoiled an awful lot of takes. I mean, it must have been a nightmare for the director because we were all so young and behaving so badly and realized that we were all working on something that was kind of peripheral, that would just disappear. But of course it hasn’t. That’s the weird and wonderful thing about it. People come up to me in the street and quote lines from it now."
Cameron later said, "“I knew we needed a score that was spooky and different but had kind of a rock feeling to it and it was kind of pre-synthesizer... We had to use Shepperton’s recording studios and it hadn’t been updated since before the war. The hilarious thing is actually having these hooligan musicians all trying to do strange things, scratch inside pianos and turn sounds inside out, but the recording engineer still had a suit and tie on. It was so anachronistic."
Two of Cameron's pieces from the score—"Witch Hunt (Title Theme from the Film Psychomania)" and "Living Dead (Theme from the Film Psychomania)"— were released in 1973 as a 7" single on the Jam label, using the artist name "Frog". This Frog record was reissued in 2011 by Spoke Records as a limited edition vinyl 7".
Henson said "“At that time, I thought if you do dodgy films, nobody pays to see dodgy films. Of course, you’re not realizing that years later they come out on DVD and become 'cults'."
Shock Till You Drop called the film "a great one-shot horror movie filled with weird, something eerie atmosphere, crazy stunt work, cheeky performances, mild kink and a unique charm all its own." Variety called it "a low-budget, well-done shocker with a tightly-knit plot and a believable surprise ending". Nerdist called it "very effective thanks to the mixture of heavy action, moody guitar music, and dreamy visuals."
- Hischak, Thomas S. (2015). The Encyclopedia of Film Composers. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 115. ISBN 978-1442245495.
- PSYCHOMANIA Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 40, Iss. 468, (Jan 1, 1973): 82.
- Vagg, Stephen (27 July 2019). "Unsung Aussie Filmmakers: Don Sharp – A Top 25". Filmink.
- Andrews, Stuart (November 2010). "Hell Bent for Leather". Rue Morgue. p. 49.
- Smith, Adrian (2016), "Psychomania", Screem, 1 (32): 14–16
- *Hodges, Mike (September 1999). "Riding the Horror Express". Fangoria. No. 186. pp. 70–75.
- "Psychomania Locations". Psychomania.bondle.co.uk. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- Alexander, Chris (October 2010). "Born to Be Undead: Psychomania". Fangoria. No. 297.
- Midnight p 18
- "Psychomania: Amazon.co.uk: Music". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- "Psychomania". Trunkrecords.com. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- "Spoke Releases: Home Page". Spokerecords.co.uk. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- Psychomania at Rotten Tomatoes
- Alexander, Chris (23 February 2017). "Psychomania Blu-ray Review". Shock Till You Drop. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
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- Anderson, Kyle (23 February 2017). "Schlock & Awe: PSYCHOMANIA". Nerdist. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
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- "Buy Psychomania (Flipside 033) (Dual Format Edition) - Shop". shop.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
- "NEW US TITLE: Psychomania Dual Format Blu-ray & DVD". Facebook. 11 November 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
- The Midnight Writer (December 1983). "Sharp Turns". Fangoria. No. 31. pp. 14–18.