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Psychomania
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Brand-new interview with star Nicky Henson
  • Return of the Living Dead, an archive featurette containing interviews actors Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Holder and Rocky Taylor
  • Sound of Psychomania, an archive interview with composer John Cameron
  • Riding Free, an archive interview with ‘Riding Free’ singer Harvey Andrews
  • Hell for Leather, a brand-new featurette on the company who supplied the film’s costumes
  • Remastering Psychomania, a look at the film’s restoration from the original 35mm black and white separation masters
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet containing writing by Vic Pratt, William Fowler and Andrew Roberts

Psychomania

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Don Sharp
1973 | 91 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: Arrow Video
MVD Visual

Release Date: February 21, 2017
Review Date: February 14, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

The United States gave motorcycle-mad cinemagoers Easy Rider, The Wild One and The Wild Angels. The United Kingdom gave them Psychomania, the tale of zombie bikers run amok is southern England. The Living Dead are a delinquent biker gang, fond of causing havoc on British roadways and making out in graveyards. Gang leader Tom (Nicky Henson) also has a Satanist for a mother, and when he discovers the secret of immortality, the name of his motley crew takes on a more literal meaning... Directed by Hammer veteran Don Sharp (The Kiss of the Vampire, The Devil-Ship Pirates) and co-starring Beryl Reid (Dr. Phibes Rises Again) and George Sanders (Village of the Damned), Psychomania is a wonderfully offbeat gem, outlandish and eccentric in equal measure.


PICTURE

Don Sharp’s motorcycle/undead hybrid exploitation filmPsychomania gets a new dual-format edition from Arrow Video, who present the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 2K restoration scanned from all three black-and-white colour separation masters, the best elements available.

Arrow is using the same restoration that BFI used for their Blu-ray edition, and they have put in a surprising amount of work into this one, more effort than one would probably expect for a cult film like this (though granted, it appears it does have a fairly sizeable cult following). With only a limited number of sources available (most in bad condition) BFI used—as mentioned above—three black-and-white separation masters used to preserve the colours of the film in the case of fading, each print representing one of the three primary colours (red, blue, and green). BFI scanned each element in 2K resolution, digitally layered them, and then performed various restoration techniques, including colour correction. It’s an impressive amount of work and the end results show that it was worth it.

Though the original negative was not available the separations masters that were used were made directly from the negative, in turn managing to offer a terrific amount of detail. The image isn’t crystal clear, mind you, but the digital presentation cleanly renders the sharp details that it can, even rendering the film’s grain structure shockingly well, looking like a projected film most of the time. Though some darker, low-lit sequences can look a little noisy in the shadows and blacks can be a bit crushed, I didn’t notice any other significant anomalies and the image is unbelievably clean. In particular the opening, which takes place in a misty, foggy setting, delivers that mist naturally, no banding or artifacts present. The digital presentation really looks superb.

Some bits of dirt pop up in places the restoration work has still been very thorough and very little damage remains. I think the three-strip colour source creates a few minor problems in places: there can be a pulse in a few scenes where the colours noticeably shift around, and whites might take on a heavier dose of blue or yellow for a second or so, but otherwise those involved in this restoration have done an admirable job in restoring the colours, as well as every other aspect of this restoration. It looks shockingly good.

UPDATE (Feb 16, 2017): In a previous version of this article I identified Arrow as being the ones behind the bulk of the restoration work. This work was actually done by the BFI. 8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film comes with a lossless mono track, presented in 1.0 PCM. The film’s score (which is really interesting I must say) has some decent heft and fidelity behind it, with a nice amount of range. Dialogue is very clear, likewise with decent fidelity. And despite a few moments where there is some audible background noise, the track as a whole has been nicely restored.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

I admittedly haven’t seen any previous releases for the film, though I suspect Arrow is recycling quite a bit of material here, outside the 2010 Severin making-of they note here. I suspect this mostly because the extras use clips from the film that look to come from an older master, and the clips look and sound fairly rough, enhancing your appreciation of the work that was put into this.

One feature appears to be new, though, an interview with actor Nicky Henson, who plays Tom in the film. Henson appears in an older feature that’s also available on this disc, and this newer one does repeat some comments he makes there, including a story about George Saunders’ name being misspelled on his chair (as Saunders) and his surprise at the film’s popularity. But here he talks a bit more about his work on stage and explains why he is in the film (needed the work and thought no one would see it) and shares a variety of stories about accidents on set, trips to (the) hospital and some of the odd concerns producers had, like a concern about showing someone smoking but no concern about the film depicting a baby being run over with a bike. He obviously doesn’t like the film very much, and he gets a bit more scathing in his comments in the other feature, but you can still see he’s still generally amused by it and its longevity with fans, though he jokes he has made more money off of royalties from Syriana than he has from this film or any of the other British genre films he’s done. It’s an entertaining and fairly amusing interview overall. It runs about 14-minutes.

Return of the Living Dead is a 25-minute making-of documentary from a 2010 Severin edition of the film and features interviews with Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Hauser, and stuntman Rocky Taylor. Though I guess I shouldn’t be overly surprised that each participant doesn’t really hold the film high in their own body of work—with Taylor suggesting he and others around him had forgotten about the film and Henson states the film perfectly represents the “doldrums” of the British film industry at the time—they still seem to be having fun talking about it and recalling the time. Yes, they cover the types of tales that are common when working on a low-budget film like this, but they’re fun stories and there is some amusement in how all express a certain level of shock that both Beryl Reid and George Sanders are inexplicably in this (and such good sports, too!) But I found the piece at its best when everyone is talking about the film’s surprisingly strong stunt work, and how these were accomplished. Ultimately it’s still really only a talking-heads featurette broken up with clips from the film (making use of an older master and not the same one Arrow used) but it’s an enjoyable one.

Arrow then includes a few other interviews: The Sound of Psychomania (about 9-minutes) featuring an interview with composer John Cameron; Riding Free (about 6-minutes) featuring singer Harvey Andrews; and Hell for Leather (about 8-minutes) featuring one of the co-owners of Lewis Leathers, Derek Harris. Cameron talks about how the film’s interesting score came about while Andrews explains the backstory to the bizarre appearance of the song “Riding Free” in the film. Harris’ contribution proves to be the most fascinating of the bunch as he talks about the biker clothing in the film, his shop being the provider of most of the outfits to the production. He goes through the pieces of wardrobe that appear in the film and in most cases gives a bit of history behind the designs. It’s a feature I probably would have never thought of adding but here it is and it’s actually pretty good.

Arrow also provides a 2-minute restoration demonstration explaining the 3-strip colour restoration, and then the disc offers a theatrical trailer for the film.

Limited to first pressings is a rather lengthy booklet, featuring a number of essays. The first, by Vic Pratt, offers what I can only call a “so bad it’s good” defense of the film, stating it’s “like a Hammer production, but gone weirdly and wonderfully wrong.” He also goes into detail about the British film industry at the time and how a film like this probably shouldn’t be unexpected. William Fowler then writes extensively about George Sanders’ later life and his eventual suicide (Psychomania was his last film), and then Andrew Roberts offers a more straightforward write-up (and defense) of the film. We also get an article by Christopher Koetting on an interview conducted with director Don Sharp. The release also comes with reversible cover art featuring the film’s original poster art on the reverse side.

I can’t say I drummed up a lot of love for the film but I was rather taken with the booklet and its writings, making it the strongest addition to the release, so for those that want the film I would recommend picking up a first pressing while the booklets are still available. I also enjoyed the other supplements, which offer a fairly fascinating (and occasionally amusing) rundown on the film’s rather odd production. Fans should be more than happy.

7/10

CLOSING

We get a fairly sharp new restoration and based on the clips found in the special features BFI has pulled off quite the miracle, and Arrow nicely encodes it here. It still has some apparent issues that are mostly source related, but it still looks impressive. Throw in some fun features and I know fans of the film will be more than please with this.

UPDATE (Feb 16, 2017): In a previous version of this article I identified Arrow as being the ones behind the bulk of the restoration work. This work was actually done by the BFI.



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