In contemporary Paris, Paul de Marnac (Paul Naschy) is told that his wife Geneviève is suffering from a serious heart condition and needs relaxation if she is going to stay alive. He decides to take her to his out-of-the way chateau deep in the countryside but en route the pair are attacked by bandits and Geneviève's heart condition becomes worse. Eventually arriving at the chateau, Paul meets the feisty young maid Julie and she tells Geneviève about the terrible legends surrounding the house. Geneviève starts to see horrifying visions and her heart condition keeps getting worse...
Penned by Naschy himself, Panic Beats is a follow-up of sorts to his earlier Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973), but like the sequels to his better known werewolf pictures, he re-uses the main character and some of the ideas but otherwise writes a completely unrelated story that in fact would not work as a direct sequel at all. Somewhat worryingly, an early sequence sees Paul's car break down on the way to the chateau in an almost exact replica of a scene from the earlier film but fortunately the rest of the script avoids such repetition.
The pacing early on is quite slow and aside from the pre-credits sequence there is no real horror for quite a long period and even when the haunting of Geneviève begins, the film seems to move quite sedately - the time is used well early on to build up the storyline, but the attempts to create some mystery over the hauntings does fall somewhat flat as the tiny cast of characters leave few possible suspects. It is after Geneviève's death that the film takes a left-field twist and becomes a much more interesting film with the pacing picking up considerably and a wealth of twists emerging, but managing to hold together well - it all builds up to an inevitable but very enjoyable and actually quite scary climax. Exploitation elements are not as heavily used as in some of Naschy's other pictures but the couple of gory deaths are very vivid and there are several very nice nude scenes.
As well as writing and starring in his pictures, Naschy soon took to directing them and Panic Beats shows how readily he took to this - the pre-credits sequence alone shows a some beautiful stylisation above his often rather rough-and-ready 1970s pictures. The film is helmed on a small scale, much of the action confined to the house sets but it always looks good and the gory effects are realistic (if only because the camera does not linger on them in the way that many Italian movies did, allowing the viewer to see the flaws in the effects clearly). The soundtrack is a largely synthesised affair which works well although the opening and closing title music is a little too upbeat.
Naschy is as good as ever in the leading role and interestingly he seems to relish his older age in the film compared to his earlier productions, even making a point of wearing reading glasses in a number of scenes. He risks being outplayed however by Paquita Ondiviela as the gorgeously seductive femme fatale who particularly in the final chapter of the film shows a real flair for horror and it is a pity she had no other genre outings. The rest of the cast are solid.
Certainly not the straight horror of its predecessor, Panic Beats is a very enjoyable film despite a slow start and it certainly comes recommended to all Naschy fans with a strong leading performace from the man himself, along with some effective horror and adept direction.
|Anyone famous in it?||Paul Naschy - the Spanish horror star, best known for his series of Wolfman films.|
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Paul Naschy - as well as writing, Naschy takes the director's chair for this and several of his later horror pictures including El carnaval de las bestias (1980) and La bestia y la espada mágica (1983)|
|Is it scary?||There are couple of sequences that might prove scary.|
|Any gore or violence ?||Only a couple of gory shots, but these are very graphic, easily the match of the contemporary Italian horrors.|
|Any sex or nudity?||Several full frontal female nude scenes (and a rather less welcome bathtub scene for Naschy).|
|Who is it for?||A must see film for fans of Paul Naschy.
|Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973)||A much more traditional horror yarn from which this film borrows its main villain.|
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is strong with good colours.
|Audio||Spanish stereo - sounds fine throughout.|
|Subtitles||English - translate the Spanish audio. A couple of rather silly mistakes but generally strong.|
|Extras||The disc includes:
|Region||Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC|
|Other regions?||Also released in Germany, with German audio only.|
|Cuts?||The film is believed to be uncut. Print language is Spanish (although the main title is in English, possibly newly added)|