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Panic Beats

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    Ian Jane
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  • Panic Beats

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    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Relesed on: 4/26/2005
    Director: Paul Naschy
    Cast: Paul Naschy
    Year: 1983
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Panic Beats, the 1982 effort written, directed (under his real name of Jacinto Molina) by and starring Spanish horror mainstay Paul Naschy is an interesting, atmospheric, and mean spirited little horror movie that fits in nicely with the rest of Naschy's filmography.

    Paul Naschy plays, well, Paul… a distant relative of Alaric De Marnac (last seen raising Hell in Horror Rises From The Tomb), an evil knight in shining armour who has a tendency to rise from the grave every hundred years or so and kill of the Marnac women folk. This doesn't bode too well for Paul's wife, Genevieve (Julia Saly of Amando De Ossorio's Night Of The Seagulls, the fourth Blind Dead film), who not only suffers from a heart condition but also has the unfortunate luck of receiving a late night visit from the rejuvinated Alaric - at least she thinks that's what's happening.

    Throw in a pair of mischevious maids - a young one named Julie (Paquita Ondiviela) who has aspirations for Paul, and an older one named Mabile (Lola Gaos of Jorge Grau's Blood Castle) who helped raise him when he was younger - as well as a mistress named Mirielle (Silvia Miro) for Paul and you've got yourself a bit of a mess in the Marnac househould. When Paul and his cohort devise a plan to take care of his wife so that Paul can inherit her fortune, his true colors appear and his past starts to come back to haunt him in the most sinister of ways.

    Panic Beats is a solid film full of truly unlikeable characters. Save only for Genevieve, everyone in the film is out for themselves and has some sort of ulterior motive be it sexual gratification or simply money. Paul's poor wife, who he claims to be taking away to the old family home simply so that she can recover from her condition, is the only character in the film that generates any sympathy from the viewer - the rest of the cast are backstabbers. That being said, it's the back stabbing that makes this one so much fun. With everyone out to get something from everyone else the film does manage to evoke a couple of genuine surprises before the end and it does manage to keep you guessing throughout.

    Also working in the film's favor are the sets, and of course, the set pieces. The large stone fireplaces and antiquated weapons on display throughout the old Marnac household give the movie a great gothic European style that's added to by the burial plots surrounding the accompanying lands. This makes for a great location for a horror movie and Naschy takes full advantage of the look of the location in which the film transpires. As far as the set pieces are concerned, the film doesn't shy away from the violence or the bloodshed. Beginning with a scene in which a woman is flogged by a knight on horseback moving on to a dream scene in which the older maid is found sitting fireside with her throat slit only to rise from the dead and menace her niece, Panic Beats has more than it's fair share of grue.

    Of course, what would a Nachy film be without the man himself? He does his usual great job in front of the camera, displaying plenty of anguish and confusion over not only what his character is doing but also what his character is capable of doing. He doesn't don any werewolf prosthetics for this film, he plays it au natural like he did in Horror Rises From The Tomb and he's in fine form throughout. Of course the ladies can't resist him and as his wife starts to fall back in love with him, Julie's feelings for him begin to grow and Paul being who he is, is certainly tempted by her younger good looks. His relationship with his mistress is destined for failure - she's only after him for his wife's money, and in turn, he has no problem slapping her around a bit from time to time and is only using her for sex.

    Overall, Panic Beats is plenty entertaining. Part soap opera, part semi-modern day gothic horror film, it moves along at a reasonably solid pace, contains a fun performance from the leading man, and makes the most out of its sets thanks to some wonderful cinematography and eerie lighting. There are a few moments here and there that remind you that you're not watching a big budget release but Naschy makes the most of his film. From the obvious symbolism of the snakes that appear as a precursor to the true evil that lays within the homestead to the bloody effects like the gorged out eyeballs to the oddities like the ultra shiney suit of armor that is supposed to be hundreds of years old, Panic Beats has got pretty much everything you'd expect from a decent Euro horror film, and that's a good thing.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is fantastic. Colors are nice and bright but still remain distinct. Print damage is kept to a minimum and only really appears in the form of the odd dust speck or tiny scratch here and there. There's a very natural coat of film grain noticeable throughout the movie that doesn't prove to be in the least bit distratcing and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression noticeable at all.

    While there is some mild edge enhancement and the odd instance of shimmering (look at the Tarot cards for the most glaring example of this - but again, it's really quite minor) they are honestly and truly few and far between. For the most part, this is an excellent transfer and it does the film justice. In short, Panic Beats really does look great on DVD!

    Mondo Macabro presents Panic Beats in its original Spanish language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix with optional English subtitles. While I did notice one typo (Paul is referred to as 'Pail' in a love making scene! Oops! How's that for a mood killer?), the subtitles are clean and easy to read. While there isn't a whole lot of channel separation during the film, the audio is always clear without any issues. Hiss and distoration are never a problem and dialogue is easy to follow. This isn't a super duper ultra active mix, but the 2.0 mix does a fine job brining the audible portion of the film to life.

    Mondo Macbro has dug deep into their vaults and pulled out some fancy extras that are fun for the whole family. First up is a documentary on the Spanish horor film scene. This is a pretty interesting look at the films that came out of Spain primarily during the sixties and seventies and it covers not only Naschy's material but also some of the films of Jess Franco and some of the better known zombie films that came out of Spain too. It does a nice job of familiarizing the viewer with what makes Spanish horror films so unique through interviews with those who made them as well as a whole lot of color photographs and promotional artwork from the various films discussed in the documentary. Amando Do Ossorio, Caroline Munroe, Jorge Grau and more also appear on camera in this very informative segment originally done for British television.

    There's also a lengthy on camera video interview with Naschy who discusses not only his work on Panic Beats but his work in Spanish horror cinema as a whole. As in the last video interview that Mondo Macabro supplied with Naschy (on their PAL Dr. Jekyll Vs. The Wolfman DVD), he comes across as a gracious man who appreciates horror, and doesn't come across as disdainful of the material at all. He's got no shortage of things to say and is in very good spirits throughout this interview which runs almost a half an hour in length!

    Rounding out the extra features are a large still and poster gallery highlighting some behind the scenes photos and more, as well as the standard Mondo Macabro promotional reel.

    The Final Word:

    All Paul Naschy films should be so lucky as to get this kind of deluxe treatment on DVD! Mondo Macabro once again goes above and beyond the call of duty and provides an obscure horror movie with the kind of treatment usually reserved for Hollywood blockbusters. Panic Beats is a solid Naschy film with gore and atmosphere to spare. Highly recommended!
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