Matchup of the Day: A Virgin Among the Living Dead vs. Psychomania
It’s a Saturday afternoon horror movie double feature flashback. When I was growing up in Michigan, one of my weekly rituals was to watch the Thriller Double Feature on channel 20. My young mind was subjected to a number of oddities that would shape my movie tastes for years to come. Psychomania and A Virgin Among the Living Dead were two of the weirdest.
A Virgin Among the Living Dead exists in several different versions under varying titles. I rewatched the film recently on Fandor, which appears to be a different version than I saw on Thriller Double Feature or on DVD in the early 2000’s. Depending on which version one watches, there may be a greater focus on eroticism or more scenes involving zombies. Normally I suffer considerable consternation when faced with deciding on which cut of a film to get behind. The more versions I have to sort through the more apprehensive I become. But with Virgin I just consider each variation as part of the same bizarre dream that I’ve been experiencing for the last thirty years.
As far as I know, the basic plot of the film remains the same with each version. The main character, Christina, travels to her family mansion for the reading of her deceased father’s will. There she meets her creepy (dead?) relatives. She also encounters the ghost of her father who always appears with a noose around his neck. The director of the film, Jess Franco, made Virgin after his favorite lead actress Soledad Miranda was killed in a car crash. Some interpret the film to be about Franco’s reflection on life and death regarding the loss of Miranda. Maybe viewing all the different versions in that context will give them some cohesive meaning. Of course, not all the cuts of the film represent Franco’s original intended vision, and so trying find a unifying meaning may be folly.
Psychomania also deals with the thin line between life and death. In this case, a gang of bikers called The Living Dead spend their time terrorizing motorists and causing property damage. Tom, the leader of the gang, discovers that his mother belongs to a frog-worshipping cult that knows the secret of returning from the dead. The key, she reveals, is to commit suicide while believing in one’s power to come back. As a test, Tom purposely rides his bike off of a bridge. Within a short time he rises from the grave (or, more accurately, motorcycles out of the grave) and convinces his friends to kill themselves as well. Soon there is a gang of unstoppable undead bikers wreaking even more havoc than before.
Psychomania isn’t as tough to figure out as Virgin, though the particulars of the frog cult is never fully explained. The gang members commit suicide in a variety of ways, from jumping out of an airplane to crashing into a delivery truck, without appearing to sustain any injuries. It’s possible that budgetary restraints prohibited making the bikers look like actual zombies. Or maybe it just wasn’t a priority for the filmmakers. Either way, Psychomania seems much less horrific than it did when I saw it as a kid.