Dir: Don Sharp
Star: Nicky Henson, Mary Larkin, Beryl Reid, Robert Hardy

British biker movies were relatively rare, compared to their American brothers. This is one such entry and, trust the Brits to weird things up, by making it a "bikers from beyond the grave" film. Tom (Henson) leads the Living Dead, a motorbike gang which terrorizes (albeit in a restrained, terribly British way) the local neighbourhood. His mother (Reid) made a pact with dark forces and, he finds out that if he kills himself - and is absolutely certain he will return - then he will not just come back, he'll become immortal. Having driven at high speed off a bridge, and duly come back, he sets about the rest of his gang, making them live up to their name. Results are somewhat mixed: some don't have the necessary certainty and just die, while his girlfriend, Abby (Larkin), is quite happy to remain among the living. Meanwhile, the cops, led by Chief-Inspector Hesseltine (Hardy), have overcome their shock at the ongoing crime spree carried out by the recently deceased, and plan to use Abby to lure Tom into a trap. That might, however, not be the biggest threat Tom faces in his new-found immortality.

A little like Plague of the Reptiles, there's one scene here that completely justifies the movie's existence, the newly-resurrected Tom revving up his hog and driving it, literally, out of the grave. It's a fabulous image, one of the best in 70's British horror [outside of The Wicker Man, admitedly not its finest decade]. Beyond that, it succeeds mostly on its originality: it's a cool premise, one which still seems fresh and interesting. Obviously, chunks of this are clearly very dated - not least, Tom being charged the princely sum of 66 new pence for two gallons of petrol - and, as noted, these are hardly Hell's Angels. It's probably also fair to say that Tom comes over as a weedy character, rather than the kind of leader who would inspire loyalty unto death, never mind beyond it. However, solid performances from the supporting cast, including George Sands as the family butler, in his last role, overcome the issues, and the net result is a uniquely British creation, combining witchcraft and motorcycles in a way not seen before or since.

[November 2010]

Bike boys
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