Arguably the greatest British movie of the last 25 years. Great tongue in cheek dialogue, one of the most moving songs in cinema history, and superb motorbike choreography.
This is a story about TOM LATHAM (played by man of the time, NICKY HENSON) and his biker troupe THE LIVING DEAD. TOM wants out of ‘this’ world - and tells his girlfriend ABBY (played by MARY LARKIN) he wants her to join him, and come back as indestructible. The drama comes very early when TOM makes it very clear he’s going for it, and the dialogue is taut with tension, “Sometimes you scare me” ABBY says. TOM replies with masterly eloquence, “It’s not me that scares you - it’s the world. Let’s get out of it, ABBY. Let’s cross over.” This comes after some unfortunate driver is forced off the road to his apparent death, and this after the spine-tingling title music by JOHN CAMERON sets the tone for what is to come.
TOM is a mad, bad, dangerous to know biker, and more so as he is on a suicide mission. He goes in glorious style, roaring over a bridge into a river. Then he comes back refreshed, killing irritants who get in his way. He lets his mother know he is “alive” whilst in the middle of killing five people. “I’m dead mother, but apart from that I couldn’t be better.”
The most moving scene is when TOM is buried by his biker pals, bolt upright on his metal steed, and the lilting voice of HARVEY ANDREWS wafts across the screen, and those memorable lines, “He really got it on/He rode that sweet machine just like a bomb.” And other great lines, “...the holy sound of revving fills the sky.” And “They tried to clip his wings just like a fly/So instead of standing still he chose to die.” The tough bikers are lovingly making wreathes whilst this acoustic melancholia is going on.
TOM comes back roaring out of his grave to run over some guy who gets in his way. He tells the gang they can all come back, if they believe. HINKY doesn’t. Lots of spectacular deaths ensue, and TOM’S mother (BERYL REID) has had enough of the murders and carnage, and conspires with her remarkably suave ‘house attendant’ or butler SHADWELL (GEORGE SANDERS) to have her son zapped for good.
The MR. FREEZE of BATMAN fame has ’em turned to stone, which is just as well as TOM is about to kill ABBY, as she botched her suicide, and doesn’t want to go with him.
Incidentally, GEORGE SANDERS never made another film. He topped himself the year this film was made, 1972. Who says films can’t influence people?
Other people to look out for are ROBERT HARDY, who plays the bemused and unfortunately named Chief Inspector HESSELTINE, and JUNE BROWN, who plays head-case JANE PETTIBONE’S mum, and does nowt but cry. BILL PERTWEE of DAD’S ARMY fame is one of the early victims.
HALLIWELL’S FILM GUIDE describes the film as “arrant nonsense of the macabre sort, sometimes irresistibly amusing.” WHAT’S ON TV called it “the ultimate deathwish comedy... deliriously daft horror movie... A psychomanic hoot!”