Mean Brit Bikers Bump Grocers, Worship Frogs!
Uhmm, yes, Psychomania AKA The Death Wheelers, is a kind-of biker moovie about a sort-of motorcycle gang which gives the impression of being mean, uncivilized, and anti-social by…umm…killing themselves and worshiping frogs. Oooookay…What an odd, bizarre moovie! Horror has never been the Brit’s strongest hand at moovie-making (watch Lifeforce sometime, and you’ll see what I mean!). But this is just weird.
This odd little flick has an uneasy antidisestablishmentarianistic feel to it, like several udder good Brit flicks of the times, including Lindsey Anderson’s If… and Kubrick’s masterful A Clockwork Orange. Unfortunately, this film is wrapped around an absurd scooter-gang plot, and has that darned frog-thing going on. It mooost be said that these Brit bikers are not the mad soccer-holligans we’ve come to expect from our daft cousins from across the puddle. They sort of race about on their little bikes, bumping into grocers and shoppers, knocking over cans of food, whizzing in and out of traffic, and even (I say!) driving their bikes inside buildings. Pretty tame stuff even for 1971.
Mommy (Beryl Reid, No Sex Please – We’re British) has made a pact with Satan/a demon/some kind of frog-thing so that her delinquent son Tom (Nicky Henson, There’s a Girl in My Soup)& his group of absurd politely mean bikers called “The Living Dead” can come back from the grave. But Tom’s squeeze Abby(Mary Larkin) refuses to join the undead duds, and they all get turned into rock, or salt, or piles of frog-poo, it’s never quite clear. Venerable George Sanders(All About Eve, From the Earth to the Moon, The Picture of Dorian Grey) plays starchy butler Shadwell, who knows all the evil angles – it was one of the last films Sanders made before killing himself out of boredom. The sharp-eyed will spot Robert Hardy(Inspector Hesseltine) from Night of the Lepus!
There are some amoosing scenes, to be sure – the famous “motorcycle blasting out of the grave” scene is kind of kewl, and so is the opening scene showing the bikers circling a small henge in slow-motion. But in the aggregate, if yer looking for horror, or even just some mindless ultra-violence, then yer trolling the wrong pond. Precious little action, silly dialogue(“I’ve always fancied crashing through a brick wall, what about you?”), and unconvincing death scenes undermine what cud have been a far moore imaginative, alternative flick. The film is sooo 1971, calling the police “the fuzz”, etc, that it positively reeks of incense and peppermint, if yer into that sort of thing. Director Sharp made many tv moovies, but also a few major films, including Kiss of the Vampire, Rocket to the Moon, and several par for the course Fu Manchu films.
The MooCow says, if you find mildly impolite bikers menacing, frogs horrifying, or have nightmares about the early 70’s in general, especially fashion, then this may be the flaccid flic for you! Udderwise, this frog is a croaker. :=8P