Let’s begin with the first several moments of the film. It begins with hypnotic spirals overlaid by the text “The first picture in Psycho Rama – The Fourth Dimension –Subliminal Communication.”
Next there is an establishing shot of a three-story house. Credits are rising in the air! (Likewise, according to the rock band Rush, “the sigh of Eth is rising in the air”. Check it out here! ) Then, ‘she’ speaks. She the narrator – she that is sharing her nightmare with us. It is a reoccurring dream of an old house that “stands like a moldering tombstone.” The camera zooms in on the front door. It opens on its own accord. We the viewers enter, trespassing further into her nightmare.
Up the stairs we follow the unseen camera. Old portraits hang on the walls. Another door opens and we see a stairway leading to an attic. The narrator is very worried about what’s up there. Stairwell curtains dance to the whims of a draft. Scary. Terror! The hypnotic spirals return. She screams!
That’s about as far as we need to go. Anybody who starts watching this film can stop at this point. The rest of the film is an exercise in “suck-o-rama.”
Alright, fine, here’s some more info. It turns out that this nightmare house really exists, so the husband/boyfriend/whothehellcares guy takes this freaked out wife/girlfriend/Iforget woman to the house and they stay in it, seeking to unveil any clues as to why she keeps having this dream. This might have been her childhood house, I don’t recall, but trust me; it’s not worth remembering these details. The rest of the film is all talk and screaming.
Talk-Talk-Talk-Talk “EEEEEEEE!” Talk-Talk-Talk-Talk “EEEEEEEE!”
The mystery (none), the twists (yawn) the revelations (oh.) – all are smashed claustrophobically into the dialogue. Every fifteen minutes or so, she the main character is screaming at something: a shadow, a mouse, a mirror, a clown, a hairpin, a can of soup. Okay, most of the preceding scares I made up. I don’t remember or care what she screamed about. All I remember was that it was annoying as hell. But these audile annoyances are soothing interludes when compared to the eye-irritating “visuals” that these filmmakers thought would be so innovative to flash on the screen. Yes, this is the “Pyscho Rama” – The “Fourth Dimension”, the “Subliminal Communication”
Every so often, images of cartoonish faces flash on the screen. Here are some examples captured from the film:
They come and go in the blink of an eye, disturbing our sensitive corneas. They’re as welcome as flying pests at a picnic. What were the filmmakers hoping to achieve with these… things? I personally have no idea. They didn’t frighten me. And no, I don’t believe in “subliminal communication.” I did not succumb to mind control and I’m quite certain that I did not open my subconscious mind to demonic possession by absorbing the content within these annoying flickers. Back in the 80s, certain pastors tried to tell me that whenever I would listen to the song “Stairway to Heaven”, a backwards message would enter my brain, rearrange itself to communicate “forwardly” to my subconscious and then deposit the damning words “Here’s to my sweet Satan” deep down in the bosom of my being. It was bunk then just as it was bunk thirty five years earlier in 1958, the year of this film’s release.
So – to recap. If you feel that you must watch some of this film, set aside five minutes and watch the opening. It is a good opening. Enjoy the creepy mood but do your best to endure the “subliminal” flashes. There are at least two of them, maybe more, within these first five minutes. But that’s better than enduring ninety minutes of these incessant intrusions.