Paul Naschy (aka: Jacinto Molina), perhaps best known for his portrayal of the tragic werewolf Waldemar Daninsky, has appeared in nearly ninety films. While not quite the household name that fellow countryman Jess Franco may be, Naschy is, without a doubt, an icon of Spanish horror cinema, and, while his werewolf films will most probably be his legacy, the actor’s work behind the camera is equally impressive, and showcases the former bodybuilder’s love for the gruesome gothic horror that came out of Spain during the rule of Francisco Franco. One of the best examples of Naschy’s work, 1983’s Latidos de pánico (Panic Beats), now comes to DVD courtesy of Mondo Macabro.
Paul (Naschy) is a successful businessman whose wife, Geneviève (Saly), is suffering from a heart ailment, and is prescribed rest and fresh air to help extend her life. Paul takes her to his family’s countryside cottage, where she can get the rest she needs. When they arrive, Geneviève is introduced to Paul’s childhood nanny, Mabile, and her sexy young niece, Mireille, who tells Geneviève of the legend of one of Paul’s descendents; the evil Alaric de Marnac. The legend tells of how Alaric killed his wife after finding her in another man’s arms, and goes on to say that he rises from the grave every hundred years to claim the life of another Marnac woman.
Paul is furious when he hears that Mireille and Mabile have told his wife this tale, and tries to convince his wife that this is simply Mabile’s way, but, when he is out of town on business, Geneviève encounters what she believes to be Alaric. It’s obvious that someone is trying to scare the poor woman to death, but who? Is it the malicious Mireille, who obviously has her eyes on Paul? Or is it Paul, who stands to gain a lot in the event of his wife’s death? Or could it very well be that Alaric, himself, has returned from the grave to claim the life of yet another Marnac woman?
Panic Beats is equal parts gothic horror and classic giallo, with a touch of Scooby Doo thrown in for good measure. The film is never particularly scary, but that’s more than made up for with buckets of gore, an agreeable amount of nudity (thankfully never featuring the stout and hairy Naschy), and a fun, twist-laden plot that may not have you guessing until the end, but is entertaining enough to keep you watching. The performances are about what you’d expect in a Naschy film, with lots of screaming, fainting, and close-ups of Naschy’s “bedroom eyes” to hammer home just how irresistible he is to young, attractive women, lending credence to my theory that fat, middle-aged bald men are chick magnets.
The real star here is how good this film looks, with wonderful cinematography that calls to mind classic Bava. The film is full of classic gothic atmosphere, and looks like something out of the 1960’s (which is a good thing). The transfer presented by Mondo Macabro is fantastic, with nary an artifact in sight, and strong, solid colors throughout.
The DVD is packed with extra goodies, including a short but fascinating look at the history of Spanish horror, an interview with Naschy, a stills gallery, and more.
Panic Beats is a welcome addition to the Mondo Macabro collection, and this presentation will certainly please Naschy fans, as well as win over some new ones.