= Highest Rating
you're partial to gothic horrors — but also like them occasionally
spiced up with liberal dashes of gore and gratuitous nudity
— then Paul Naschy's Panic Beats
(Latidos De Pánico) should fit the bill nicely.
In a pre-titles sequence we see an armored
knight on horseback, played by Naschy, pursuing a screaming
naked woman through an eerie forest. The chase ends when the
woman collapses and is brutally bludgeoned to death by the knight
with a spiked morningstar. After the opening credits we're transported
to modern day Paris, where wealthy architect Paul de Marnac
(also Naschy) is given a medical diagnosis of his even wealthier
wife Geneviève. A weak, diseased heart makes it imperative
she receive a lengthy rest and avoid any sudden shocks. Paul
suggests a prolonged stay at his ancestral country estate far
from the bustling city. Before they even arrive, however, the
de Marnacs have a terrible fright when their car runs out of
gas and they're attacked by a pair of robbers. Paul beats up
the thugs and sends them packing; Geneviève (Julia Saly) staves
off a coronary by gobbling nitro pills.
move to the country seems to bode well once established at the
château. With the house tended to by devoted old servant Maville
(Lola Gaos) and her fetching young niece Julie (Paquita "Pat"
Ondiviela), the de Marnacs can focus their energies on Geneviève's
recuperation and rekindling their love. But for Geneviève peace
and tranquility are illusory. She's unsettled by the gruesome
legend of Paul's ancestor, Alaric de Marnac, a 16th Century
knight who murdered his unfaithful wife and became a devotee
of Satan. Entombed in the family cemetery, Alaric is said to
rise from the grave every 100 years to wreak bloody vengeance
on any de Marnac bride who fails to meet his standards. One
night, while Paul is away in Paris on business, Geneviève collapses
and nearly dies of fright when she sees Alaric's armor-clad
ghost stalking the château. Is it just a simple case of spooky
stories playing on her already frayed nerves? Everyone else
Paul included —
seems to think so...
This was the first
film I'd seen directed by Naschy, who helmed from a script he
wrote under his real name (Jacinto Molina). With Panic
Beats he demonstrates a solid grasp of, and obvious love
for, the gothic aesthetic. Were it not for the nudity and gory
murders the film would be a very
old fashioned horror thriller/mystery melodrama —
sort of Horror
Rises from the Tomb meets Gaslight.
Naschy saves most of the blood 'n' guts for the final act, using
them for maximum shock value but never overplaying his hand.
There's even a nod to the Italian giallo in the form of a mysterious
black-gloved figure seen briefly sneaking about the mansion.
(Up to no good, of course). Foxy Pat Ondiviela, as the nubile
young housekeeper who's anything but innocent, is afforded welcome
opportunities to shed her clothes... Naschy's definitely a cheeky
guy, penning a script for himself in which he's guaranteed a
number of love scenes with naked ladies!
Well performed by its small cast
and ably directed by Naschy (who knows how to get mileage from
a limited budget), the film nevertheless stumbles on occasion
due to some awkward expository dialog and a few key scenes which
go on much too long for their own good. (One character's demise,
extremely important to the plot, is dragged out to the point
where it becomes unintentionally funny. Like me, you may find
yourself yelling "Just die, already!" at the
screen.) The positives certainly outweigh the negatives, though.
Euro-Cult enthusiasts — even those not enamored of Naschy's
werewolf flicks — would be remiss to pass this one by.
the new Panic Beats DVD the folks
at Mondo Macabro continue their track record of high quality releases
of lesser-known genre films. A nearly pristine widescreen (1.78:1)
anamorphic transfer is complemented by a clean Dolby 2.0 audio
mix in the original Spanish with optional, easy-to-read English
subtitles. As presented on the disc this film certainly doesn't
look nearly a quarter-century old.
In addition to a sizable
image gallery, two topnotch featurettes are included as extras.
The 20-minute Blood and Sand, originally made for British
TV, serves as an excellent primer on the Spanish horror film from
The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962) to
Panic Beats some two decades later.
Featuring interviews with Paul Naschy, Jorge Grau and Blind
Dead creator Amando de Ossorio (among others), it explains
Spanish horror's "primal," "earthy" approach to tried-and-true
genre conventions, its birth during the restrictive rule of Generalissimo
Francisco Franco and subsequent liberalization as censorship was
relaxed in the early Seventies and then done away with after the
dictator's death in 1975. (And yes, he's still dead.) The
second documentary, Paul Naschy On... (29 minutes), sees
the venerable actor/writer/director musing on his influences,
lengthy career and, in particular, crafting Panic
Beats. Naschy fans will absolutely love it.