Three schoolteachers stop at a garage on their way to a baseball game at Dodgers Stadium. Their car isn’t running properly and so they need to look at it and maybe try to fix it. But thats not their biggest obstacle- they come face to face with Charlie Tibbs and his girlfriend- a couple of killers who are accused of murders in Arizona and are on the run. Charlie has a gun and insists that they work on the car so that he can get away in it.
This film is like a play that has been filmed- there is primarily one main setting (the film reminded me of Cujo in that respect). But this doesn’t mean that the film is static and boring. The one setting is used innovatively and this means that the film is directed with verve. There is also a sense of ‘us versus them’ with the schoolteachers in their Sunday best (shirts, ties or a nice conservative dress) whilst Tibbs is looking every part the juvenile delinquent in his denims and sporting a greasy quiff. Tibbs is obviously based on real-life serial killer Charles Starkweather.
This film is brilliant- will the teachers get away, when and how? The film ramps up the tension and suspense and never lags- theres no scenes that feel unnecessary. The film is also very extreme for its time. It was even rejected by the BBFC when it was submitted for classification in 1964.
Arch Hall Jr in the lead gives an extraordinary performance as Tibbs- the Sadist in the title. His face and facial expressions are almost other-worldly and supernatural as is his portrayal. Quite extraordinary.
Watch out for the poignant scene in which the schoolteachers hear on the radio the baseball game they should be at instead of fighting for their lives.
Theres also some innovative direction within the film- it almost feels like Tibbs’ gun in the first half of the film is an actual character.
I didn’t know about this film until recently. I’m glad I do now. Why isn’t this more widely available on DVD and Blu ray?
Apparently this film is a favourite of director Joe Dante’s- a seal of approval anyone would be proud of.
The daughter of a famous plastic surgeon causes a car accident in which his daughter’s face is disfigured. The surgeon has a new theory hes dying to carry out which involves transplanting a face to replace his daughter’s maimed features but this involves donors- willing or not.
I forst saw this film when I was studying film analysis and writing at University. I throughly enjoyed it but I’ve only just rewatched it now. This film is haunting, poignant and so very sad. Everything about it is pinpoint perfect from the cinematography, the music score and the acting. Edith Scob’s portrayal of the surgeon’s daughter Christiane needs highlighting here. Never has a performance been so nuanced and touching as Scob comes across as vulnerable, child-like and so sad. On of the most touching perfomances I’ve ever experienced in the whole medium of film.
The film has some amazing observations to make about beauty, self-image and superficiality. Beauty is only skin deep and is also transitory. In these times of facelifts, implants and Botox, this film is even more relevant.
There is also a running theme in the film regarding being caged or constrained and being free- bother physically, mentally and ideologically. If I went into these themes anymore I’d ruin this film experience for anyone who hasn’t seen this gem.
What a cracking film to start my 31 Days of Halloween with.
This is a British film which stars Bette Davis as a nanny for a family living in London in which a young boy has been sent away for supposedly killing his sister. The boy is due to be released after two years and return to his family home and under Ms Davis’ supervision.
The boy vehemently protests his innocence and insists that instead it was the nanny who committed the terrible deed. Is he right? Or is the nanny indeed guilty?
Theres already the almost unspeakable taboo of a child killing another child within this film which gives the film a grittiness right from the get go. The household in question is steeped in gothic tension even though it is in fact light and airy. No Baby Jane mansion here.
Theres also the stifling formality of English life at this time. There are so many manners and formalities at play that are overwhelmingly suffocating and claustrophobic.
Within the film there is also a delicious generation gap which underlines this and presents a tangible ‘Old vs new’ scenario. The boy in question, Joey forges a friendship with a 14 year old girl who lives in the same building. She dresses like a hip 60s girl, all white lipstick and black eyeliner. When we see within her bedroom Joey gazes up at a Beatles mobile she has hanging from the ceiling and at one point we see her reclining on her bed reading a copy of the girls magazine Jackie which has a pin up of Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones on its back cover.
Beautifully acted (especially Ms Davis of course, whose character has a pair of the ugliest eyebrows ever captured on film) and elegantly directed, this is one of Hammer’s finest films.
Of course this would only have been made with Ms Davis if Hollywood wasn’t casting the very best stars of yesteryear anymore. Every cloud has a silver lining. What was Hollywood’s loss was very much Hammer’s gain.
Every day in October I will be reviewing a different horror film.
Some of the criteria I’ve used for the choice of films are
– a film from each decade from the 1920s onwards
– films from a number of different countries
– a Friday the 13th film as within October this year the 13th falls on a Friday!!! (mind blown)
The rest of my choices were films that I had wanted to see for ages but hadn’t gotten around to or were films that I have seen before but was dying to revisit (three of the films have ratings already by myself. These are some of the films that will be revisited and be reviewed again to see if my opinion has changed).
When I had my list of films they were then fed into an online randomiser so that they could be mixed up. With my randomised list I made one change- I made sure that the film watched on the 13th of October was the Friday the 13th movie. But thats the only change.
Here are the films-
Day 1- The Nanny (1965)
Day 2- Battle Royale (2000)
Day 3- The Exorcist (1973)
Day 4- Piranha (1978)
Day 5- Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) and Tales From The Unexpected episode ‘Flypaper’ (1980)
Day 6- The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)
Day 7- The Fog (1980)
Day 8- Eyes Without A Face (1960)
Day 9- Phantasm (1979)
Day 10- Nosferatu (1922)
Day 11- Blood Beach (1980)
Day 12- The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Day 13- Friday the 13th Part 4- The Final Chapter (1984)
And now its over to Meathook Cinema’s Liverpool correspondent, Mr Colin Cooper who has been to revisit the filming locations of the masterpiece Psychomania…
”I first saw Psychomania when I was about 13 years old in the early 80s, back in the day when there were only three TV channels, and long before we could afford a video recorder. It was a film that always stuck in my mind and it felt like something I had never seen before. I can still recall my mother looking on disapprovingly as I laughed out loud as a screaming mother and her baby’s pram are sent crashing down a supermarket aisle due to the evil actions of the said film’s biker gang; ‘The Living Dead.”
Some years later it was shown on TV again, in a late night slot (its spiritual home), by which point the VHS recorder had been acquired. This remained my main source to introduce the film to friends, and one night in particular went down in memory, as five friends and myself watched it together in my flat. It was fair to say we were all suitably ‘enhanced’ to fully appreciate everything Psychomania had to offer. The howls of laughter when our deceased gang leader explodes from his grave, still riding his motorbike, which was rewound a number of times for repeated views. Then the very next night as luck would have it, occupying its late-night TV slot, to our astonishment was Psychomania. Cue the sound of numerous VHS cassettes being prepared for its impending broadcast to the nation. Which I’m sure was in itself a message from beyond the grave, from the Living Dead.
For the uninitiated Psychomania is a 1973 British biker occultist zombie horror (in the loosest sense) movie. However it is much, much more (or should that be less?) than that. It is unintentionally hilarious, with a ludicrous plot in which the protagonists discover the secret of immortality. This involves their own willing suicides by various farcical methods to return as the actual living dead. Add to this Beryl Reid as mother to the bike gang’s leader, with a mean sideline as a spiritual medium. Alongside George Sanders in his last movie, given star billing for his minimal role as the family’s somber butler. All delivered with total sincerity, despite the clear ridiculousness of the script. Psychomania was never intended to be a comedy, but a low budget exploitation horror film that would do the rounds, usually as part of a double bill, making the studio some easy cash, then be forgotten. Thankfully due to its screenings on late night TV, no doubt licensed at minimal cost to fill out the schedule, it has gradually gained a cult following.
Motorcycles and their associated gangs / dropouts / rebels were no strangers to the cinema screen. From the counterculture blockbuster Easy Rider (1969) and its psychedelically tinged cinematography and panoramic landscapes. The monochrome cool of the Wild One (1953) starring Marlon Brando, which was only granted a certificate in the UK, some fourteen years after its original release. To The Leather Boys (1964) a rare British addition to the genre, with its kitchen sink realism coupled with a controversial gay subplot. Not to mention the glut of late 60s biker spinoffs from America and beyond.
So what does Psychomania bring to the table? A bunch of predominantly middle class, well spoken, spotlessly clean ‘hell raisers’ terrorising the good people of Walton on Thames. Storming around on a motley collection of ‘heaps of shit’ motorbikes, much to the dismay of actor and keen motorcyclist Nick Henson. His main motivation to sign up to the movie was the thought of leading his band of reprobates atop a Harley Davidson. Needless to say Psychomania’s budget could not extend to such esteemed machines, and a team of mechanics were required to keep the scrap heap bikes running throughout filming. Henson is still somewhat embarrassed and astonished that out of his extensive career as a professional actor, Psychomania has fittingly come back to haunt him from beyond the grave.
Not to mention the dialogue, after another blood free bloodbath, surrounded by bodies, a police inspector when informed of the culprits declares, “That lot!” being one of many highlights. Throw in a stone circle, frog fixated occultism, driving through brick walls, a psychedelic nightmare scene, some natty threads all accompanied by an eerie semi progrock soundtrack. What’s not to like?
Psychomania has only recently been issued on DVD (and Blu-ray) in the UK. I had obtained an American import some years ago, which itself had long been out of print. As always the BFI have made an impressive effort to bring this masterpiece to your living room in all its glory. Beautifully remastered, loads of extras with a well-researched booklet.
So to go the extra mile, heres some photographs from my recent pilgrimage to the film locations around the Walton on Thames area.
Many have long since been redeveloped as it was always a dream of mine to go shopping in the featured supermarket whist pushing a pram. Sadly no longer possible, life sucks!”
Psychomania has now been given the loving treatment it deserves and is released on Blu ray by the BFI. According to sources the transfer is beautiful. Buy it here for a classic slice of British biker death wish greatness.