Tuesday, February 2, 2021

PANIC BEATS (1982) (Mondo Macabro Blu-ray Review)


Label: Mondo Macabro
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: Spanish PCM 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Paul Naschy 
Cast: Frances Ondiviela, Julia Saly, Lola GaosPaul Naschy, Silvia Miro

Synopsis: Spanish horror legend Paul Naschy wrote directed and stars in this dark and macabre tale of lust, betrayal, and ghostly vengeance. Naschy plays a descendent of the Alaric de Marnac character first seen in his 1973 film Horror Rises from the Tomb. Desperate to salvage his crumbling financial empire, Paul Marnac (Naschy) decides to kill his heiress wife, Geneviève, played by Julia Saly. He enlists the help of a sexy and ambitious younger woman, Julie, played by former Miss Spain, Frances Ondiviela. Unfortunately, one murder is not enough to satisfy Julie’s blood lust, and greed. As the corpses pile up, she heads for a confrontation with an ancient and unstoppable evil. Remastered for the first time in HD, this fully restored Blu-ray is the complete uncut version of the film and contains all the notorious gore and violence.

Of all of the dozens of films I have seen from Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy the ones he wrote, directed and starred in are among my favorites, prime among them to my eyes would be The Devil Incarnate (1979) and The Beast and the Magic Sword (1983). This time around we are looking at Naschy's mean-spirited 80's Gothic shocker Panic Beats (1982), which opens with the return of a Naschy's medieval character Alaric de Marnac, whom we first saw in Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973). The atmospheric flick opens deep inside a foggy mountaintop forest where we see an armor clad Marnac on horseback pursuing a frightened, bleeding, and naked young. Unable to escape he viciously kills her by bludgeoning her with a spiked three ball flail, a brutal medieval weapon, announcing that this is her punishment for her infidelity.

We then move ahead several hundred years to the early nineteen eighties where a descendent of Marnac named Paul (Naschy, 'natch) is moving both he and his wealthy wife Geneviève (Julia Saly, Inquisition) to his ancestral mountaintop chateau, which is maintained by an elderly servant woman named Mabile (Lola Gaos, Poachers) and her niece, a seductive temptress named Mireille (Silvia Miró, El liguero mágico), who has set her lustful eyes on Paul.

The convalescing vacation turns out not to be as relaxing for the heart-ill Geneviève as it was thought it would be, as even before they arrive at the chateau their car runs out of gas, and when she is left alone in the car, while Paul walks into town for gas. All alone she is physically assaulted by a pair of low-life criminals, but thankfully Paul arrives and drives them off after a brief skirmish. Arriving at the house she is further spooked by the appearance of slithering snakes and undead apparitions, further bolstered by the superstitious gossip of the tarot card reading Mabile.

At first Paul comes off as a caring husband watching out for his wife's serious heart condition, but soon enough we find through his actions that he's a greedy bastard out to murder his wife for his money. Not only that but he is bedding the foxy servant Mireille, and has another side piece in Paris named Julie (Frances Ondiviela), who is also intent on replacing his wife.

Panic Beats is a fun flick, it has the atmosphere, visuals and trappings of a good old Gothic chiller but it also has the heart of a viscous 80's slasher film, which in '82 were de rigueur, which is strongly reflected in the grislier than usual for Naschy content. The mansion in the film is located deep in a forested mountain area, and once belonged to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, and it has plenty of Gothic charm, with dazzling interiors bathed in moody lighting that help sell the spook-factor of it at certain hours of the night.

The gore and violence as mentioned is plentiful and effective with death coming by way of a slit throat, a strangling, a gruesome axe wound to the head, multiple three-ball flail fatalities, a bathtub electrocution, spilled guts, a plateful of bloody eyeballs, and the previously mentioned gruesome-looking undead apparitions, real and imagined, that torment the living. We also get a gratuitous amount of full-frontal nudity, with only the elderly Lola Gaos not ending up disrobed or   making love to Naschy, thank God almighty! Aside from the gore the tone of the movie is also quite vicious, I was reminded of Mario Bava's nihilistic proto-slasher A Bay of Blood in that it's no one is innocent and no one escapes unscathed. All are either done in by the sordid hand of human greed and lust or through supernatural revenge from beyond the grave, and it makes for a great watch. 

Audio/Video: Panic Beats (1982) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro in 1080p HD framed in 1.78:1 widescreen. This is advertised as a "brand new 4K transfer from a film negative", and the image quality is beyond pleasing. We get a uniform layer of velvety film grain throughout that exports fine detail and nuance, it's a very organic looking scan. Fine detail excels in the close-ups of  supple skin tones, grotesque wounds, and in the facial features and interior decorations, such as fabric textures and vintage wall paper patters. Primaries like red, purple and blues have a nice glow about them, and black levels are quite pleasing, though some heavier grain does seep into the darker scenes. Audio comes by way of Spanish PCM Stereo 2.0 with optional English subtitles, the dialogue comes through with a pleasing directness, and the synth score has a nice presence. I did detect a bit of light hiss in spots throughout but it didn't detract from my viewing in any way.

Mondo Macabro offer a nice array of supplemental features, starting with a brand new audio commentary by Troy Guinn & Rod Barnett of The Naschycast Podcast. I have been listening to these guys talk Naschy and Euro-cult for years over at their podcast, including this particular film, for years, and listening to their commentaries is a bit like sitting in front of the TV with a couple of super-knowledgeable film friends, I always look forward to their fun and informed film conversations. Anytime we get a new Naschy Blu-ray I am a bit disappointed if we don't get a new Naschycast commentary, it's like watching a Fulci film and not getting a Stephen Thrower commentary, it just shouldn't happen! 

We also get a pair of archival video interviews with director/horror icon Paul Nashcy. The first is a 29-min Paul Naschy on... His Life In Cinema, which I believe was recorded in 1997. In it the horror titan talks about his early influences, selling his first script, acting in his first film Frankenstein's Bloody Terror (1968), directing his first film Inquisition (1977), making Panic Beats (1982), and the heritage of horror and keeping the faith. The interview ends with footage from the 2004 Sitges Film Festival where Naschy received the Time Macine Award for his outstanding contribution to horror cinema, and award presented by director John Landis (Into The Night).

In the second interview, apparently recorded in 2005, Naschy discusses his early life and love of sports and film, especially the movies of Marlon Brando, and sneaking into a screening of Universal's Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman (1943), which he said convinced him that he someday would also make movies. Then going into working as a technician in various departments on movie sets, writing his first script and getting it made, and how he came to be cast in a lead role after a suggestion from the German producer, and how he came up with the Paul Naschy stage name. He also gets into eroticism in cinema, the role of religion in the evolution of humanity, and a couple of fun stories about the making of Panic Beats. He talks of how the house it was shot in was once owned by the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, and inside the garage were several of his personal cars, including an armored Mercedes gifted to Franco by Adolf Hitler. He also discusses shooting the finale in the church chapel inside the Franco mansion and what the dictator might have thought about that. Also discussed were difficult to shoot scenes like a well-done facial transformation in the pre-digital age, the cold conditions that made the first scene very difficult for the naked actress, shooting the visor-vision POV shots, and how his knight armor heated during a scene due to nearby open flames which caused the armor to heat up and burn him. The last of the extras in an 11-minute trailer reel of wild Mondo Macabro titles, which are always a treat unto themselves!

The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the same cool painting Mondo Macabro used on their previous DVD release. Panic Beats was issues previously in 2020 by Mondo Macabro as a red case limited edition with reversible artwork and a collector's booklet which is now out-of-print, but all the disc extras are mirrored with this standard release version. 

Special Features:

- Paul Naschy on... His Life In Cinema (29 min)
- Interview with Paul Naschy (36 min)
- Audio commentary from The Naschycast Podcast Hosts Troy Guinn & Rod Barnett
- Mondo Macabro Trailer Reel (11 min)

Panic Beats (1982) has fast become one of my favorite Naschy flicks, a Gothic chiller with some vicious slasher-influenced carnage that is both mean-spirited and atmospheric. The new Blu-ray presentation from Mondo Macabro is the tits, we get a fantastic A/V presentation and a pleasing complement of extras that  make this an essential item for fans of Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy, sleazy Eurocult and Gothic-tinged shockers. 

More screenshots from the Blu-ray: