Thanks to the wonderful tendency of studios renaming their films for international audiences, once again I have queued up a film which I thought I have never seen before only to discover that I bought it years ago and half-forgotten about it. For those of you keeping score at home, THE DEATH WHEELERS is actually PSYCHOMANIA, a cult classic flick about immortal bikers who shrug off suicide and come back from the dead so they may thumb their nose at the establishment, if not the mortal world. Let us take a spin with THE DEATH WHEELERS and see why “ride to live /live to ride” sometimes takes on a whole new meaning in forgotten cult film.
As the film starts we are introduced to a small biker gang called “The Living Dead”; a group of eight English youths who express their loathing for Queen and country by causing traffic accidents and riding their bikes in lame “thread the needle” formations that look like they were taught in traffic school. In time the group’s leader, Tommy, tires of his reckless life and yearns for something more. Death, in fact. So he captures a certain mythical toad from a graveyard and eventually encourages his occult practicing mother and extremely creepy manservant to teach him the same “magic trick” that killed his own father - the secret of immortality - because he simply didn’t “believe hard enough”.
Through much pretense, some character development, and way too much exposition, the secret to eternal life is offered to Tommy. It seems that if you deliberately kill yourself fully intending to be reborn, then you won’t actually die after all. In fact you will spend eternity as a perfect looking version of your former self with absolutely no signs of physical deterioration whatsoever, and you will be gifted with super strength and an incredible resistance to injury. Needless to say, Tommy kills himself with a drive off a bridge, just one of many stunts in this film that most B-Movies I review could only dream of.
While the gang misses the admittedly charismatic Tommy and the trademark way he manipulated all of them into acts of petty criminal mischief (and a few fatal accidents), they are appalled to find his grave empty, and discuss the recent rumor that someone who fit his description committed several murders the night before. They are just discussing amongst themselves how this was probably was the work of someone who wished to frame the gang when Tommy rides up on his motorcycle, and tells his friends that they should do as he has done so they, too, can inflict murder and mayhem for all eternity, joining him forever as a true member of The Living Dead by killing themselves at once. Aghast and more than a little afraid, his former friends seek to test out his claims of immortality the only way that they can; by killing him at once. When his friend stabs him in the back and finds that it only serves to amuse him, they too drink the magic elixir of suicide and join him for some fun and games that end exactly where all PG movies about evil punks who are in league with the devil must.
I am going to say I liked this movie, (I always did) but everyone should know this is a flawed gem. For one thing, there is no sex or convincing violence whatsoever as the film is, after all, rated PG. Still, for a film about undead bikers riding from Hell’s abyss I was expecting at least some bad language out of these blokes. Moreover the creature effects are all but nonexistent; the characters looked exactly the same after they came back from the grave and in many cases still had the exact same motorcycles which were used; ultimately destroyed onscreen in many of their suicides.
Cheezy Flicks’ release of this The Death Wheelers cut of the film features a transfer that’s seen better days, as well as an audio issue that sounded a lot like the idling of some sort of phantom motorcycle that would actually never appear onscreen. Despite these technical let downs and the silly, “born to be mild” depictions of the titular heavies, I like the film. That being said, I haven’t seen a film as sorely in need of a modern remake as this. Someone please make one, because the original is deteriorating both physically and in terms of relevance, and a new Rated R “reincarnation” of this title would be three kinds of apt.
Extras include a collection of trailers.