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pretty weak none-too-scary film from Naschy, but at least the DVD extras were good!
This is out on DVD from Mondo Macabro, and I confess I own every DVD they've put out, even the UK-issued PAL ones. Well, one exception: I did not get O Ritual dos Sádicos (1970) AKA Awakening of the Beast, since I'd seen it already in Image Entertainment's Coffin Joe box set and I absolutely hated it. I'll also admit to the fact that I get a kick out of watching horror movies that have relatively few user ratings on the IMDb (less than 100, less than 20). So of course I bought Panic Beats when it came out!
The lead in Panic Beats is played by Paul Naschy AKA Jacinto Molina, a very prolific Spanish actor specializing in horror. In spite of his many films, I think the only ones I'd seen previously were La Orgía de los muertos (1973) and Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo (1972), the latter of which was one of Mondo Macabro's PAL DVDs. So far, I don't see the appeal of him as an actor. He looks a little like the late John Belushi, but seems to lack the humor and charisma. Naschy's acting, particularly in Panic Beats is very stoic, very nearly expressionless.
Panic Beats starts off energetically, with a scene set in the past with a knight chasing down a fully nude woman and killing her with a mace. The knight is Alaric du Marnac, a Gille de Rais-type character Naschy'd played before in Espanto surge de la tumba, El (1973).
After that, it's in the present day. Naschy is married to a nervous woman prone to nightmares. He takes her to an isolated home owned by his family, and their trip is not without incident. At the home is an old family servant and a pretty young relative of hers. The movie's pace is pretty slow for some time after their arrival, and it becomes evident that Naschy intends to "gaslight" his wife (Naschy, as the film's writer/director was consciously drawing from Gaslight, and Rebecca, the novel of which is mentioned by a character). Also being referenced is Les Diaboliques (1955), particularly in one scene stolen from that film, and poorly imitated here.
Much of the terror of the film is supposed to come from what is supposed to be a ghost of du Marnac, dressed in armor. Naschy, as writer/director again thought the idea of a knight moving like a tank through a modern home to be terrifying in itself. Given the incongruity, perhaps it could have been, but it is not here. It doesn't help, for example, that the house is already filled with several sets of armor; gone the incongruity - this is no "clown at midnight" to borrow Robert Bloch's phrase. The armor is also quite plain and shiny, which I didn't think helped either. And for myself, I'll add that I more or less immediately thought both of the knight in Scooby Doo, and the rubber-chicken wielding knight in Monty Python's Flying Circus TV series. An example of a terrifying knight in a modern context that worked would be the knight in Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King, so the idea is not without potential.
Naschy has lovers, and confidants, and people outside his plot yet within his circle, so there is the potential for things to start going wrong. The movie gets more interesting when this happens. There is some gore, but really not a lot. There is some full frontal nudity, and you also get to see rather a lot of Naschy who for an ex-weightlifter looks more burly than muscular.
I found the movie to be disappointing. I did like the special features, though. There is one on Spanish horror films, making particular mention of Naschy, Jess Franco, Jorge Grau, and Amando de Ossorio. There is another that is an interview with Naschy. Both are quite interesting, and made the movie not seem like such a bad purchase.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful.
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