Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Motorcycle gang? Check. Anti-establishment sentiment? Check. Groovy seventies soundtrack that is in parts ridiculous? Check. Satanistic frog worshipping cult? Check. Yes, Britain's 1973 biker gang flick, Psychomania, has it all. It's essentially your basic run of the mill tale about a motorcycle gang leader, Tom, his love for his girlfriend, Abby, and his desire to kill himself by the methods made available to him by his evil frog-worshipping butler, Shadwell, in order to return from the dead immortal to overthrow government institutions.

We meet Tom and his gang, The Living Dead, from the opening credits. They ride their bikes in slow-motion around a stone garden, then murder a guy on the highway. Then Tom and Abby are making out when he spies a frog and becomes uninterested in the prospect of love-making. He then expresses his desire of suicide but Abby says she can't tonite, because she promised her mum she'd accompany her on a shopping trip the following morning. Non-plussed, Tom takes the frog back to his mum's groovy pad and waltzes with her, but not before putting the frog in an elaborate looking stump like enclosure in the living room. Tom and his mother argue over Tom's dead father and butler Shadwell decides Tom is ready to enter THE ROOM. He gives Tom a super special frog necklace and Tom goes into the room and has a freak out staring into a large mirror. A giant frog appears on the mirror and then Tom has a vision. He puts on some Buddy Holly glasses, magical ones, natch, and some cacophonous music plays and Tom passes out. He's ready to kill himself, for reals this time, because, apparently you have to believe you'll really come back once you're dead. If you believe, no problems. If you don't, you won't come back.

The next day, during a usual outing of the Living Dead, Tom takes a dive off a bridge. They all get weepy and decide to bury him the way he would have wanted, which is seated on top of his bike, in full Living Dead gang regalia, not in a coffin or anything. Then one of the gang sings a funeral song about how great and famous Tom was and Jane, another member of the Living Dead, states she's taking over as leader. He then busts out of the grave the following day and goes on a killing spree. He kills a gas station attendant and then goes to a bar, takes in a pint, and slaughters everyone there. Couldn't he have killed people why he was alive, though? He did and had no qualms about it then. I started to wonder at this point, why kill himself if he could still kill people while he was alive. I guess it's for the whole invincibility and immortality thing, yeah that.

Then Tom convinces everyone else in the Living Dead to kill themselves so they can be this great unstoppable motorcycle gang force to be reckoned with. The idea sounds like a good one to them and seem to really revel in their new-found deadness. After some havoc wreaking, the gang decide their ultimate goal will be overthrowing government, starting with the local police. Then Tom gets drunk on his own power, and threatens Abby to either join them in death or die forever but then Tom's mom gets wind of his evil plan and has Shadwell turn her into a frog for all eternity, thus turning Tom and the rest of the gang to ashes.

The film does a great job of depicting the deviant ways of the 70's motorcycle gang - they run amok in the town, riding their bikes through busy thoroughfares, chasing down babies in carriages and tipping over guys on ladders, they ride up next to trucks and slit their tires, they even ride through brick walls and supermarkets. It's fun to watch at times, even if it's cartoonish in it's portrayal, and the high speed chase stuff always makes me a little tense. I'm a sucker for a high speed chase. I also think it succeeds in how the women are equals with the men as members of the Living Dead. My expectation upon first popping in the DVD knowing I was dealing with a motorcycle gang movie was that women were likely to not be in the gang as members but as the property of the males. Not so here - Abby and Jane are as much members of the Living Dead as Hatchet and Chopped Meat (yes, the guys have cooler names, but so what), Jane even going as far as to assume leadership after Tom's supposed death, and no one challenges her. When Jane joins Tom in death, they have a great chemistry together, and seem to really enjoy their shenanigans together.

Where it doesn't succeed is the chemistry between Tom and Abby is non-existent. Yes, Tom wants Abby to join him but he has a perfectly more suitable companion in Jane. When Abby and Tom kiss or express feelings for one another, it falls completely flat, partly because Abby seems like such a wet noodle. Abby's the one that doesn't share the same pre-punk mindset of overthrowing the establishment. She's the one that doesn't want to be dead and even goes as far at one point to pretend like she's dead to thwart Tom and the other's evil plan. In addition, I could have used more frog cult stuff too, it's by far the most entertaining and hilarious plot point in the film and at times, we sometimes forget it's the foundation of the story because the filmmakers let it go on for scene after scene with no mention of the frog cult. Then all of a sudden, you'll get some frog cult, which is not enough, thank you. It's my complaint about most movies. More frog cult!
So the moral of the story? Don't be anti-establishment. Mind your mother and do your homework and be good little boys and girls and don't join a motorcycle gang. And be careful of what cosmic frog cult you mess with.


  1. Nice review! Don't know why this one has alluded me for so long. It sounds great! Plus I believe The Damned honored it in title at least...I can't recall the lyrics.

  2. Thanks! It was a fun one to watch! Yeah, there's definitely a punk feel to it, even though it was made about four or five years before punk 'hit.' I could see why The Damned would want to write an ode to it. I'll write one myself about frog cults, the living dead (and might I note that even though they're dead, they don't act dead like zombies or anything, they are simply dead, and can't be killed - a take I don't think I've encountered before - kinda punk in and of itself - genre defying even - hmmm...), or motorcycles. Or I could just cover the funeral ode they sing for Tom in the movie. There's an idea!

  3. This one is also on my massive TBW pile...I've heard good things, and your comments stoke the fire to watch. And add something new! I had NO IDEA there were Frog Cults involved. Satanic Amphibian Worship was very nearly my minor at VHS Seminary. ;)

  4. It's the best part - like I said, they should have played the whole frog cult thing to the hilt! My next 'biker movies with a supernatural element' is going to be Werewolves on Wheels!

  5. I think I used to want to be a memeber of the Living Dead in my youth! An awesome film. Oh, Electric Wizard also paid hommage to this flick in their track 'We Live'. Heavy brilliance.

  6. Wow I didn't think there was a film called "Werewolves on Wheels" !! I just thought it was a great song by "The Ghastly Ones". Guess it proves that you do learn somthing new every day.
    Might have to revist this film at some point now, i've read this :)

  7. Elwood - check out Werewolves on Wheels for the cover art alone. It's unofficial biker movie week over here at the Cavalcade so I should post a review of it. But like many of my promises, sometimes it takes awhile :)