Paul Naschy - now there's a name that used to invoke terror into the hearts of teenage horror fans back in the video hey days of the 1980's, but not for the reasons you may think. You see, perhaps misguidedly, many young splatter fans (like myself) would scan the veritable sea of Naschy releases overpowering the shelves of video rental stores and see only a collection of perceived ham fisted badly dubbed Spanish genre fare. All of which was made all the more amusing by the fact that this guy Naschy seemed to cast himself in all his favourite roles, like some sort of Spanish William Shatner working his way through the Universal Monster back catalogue. But was this perception justified or would a revisit of Naschy's output through older somewhat more mature eyes re-evaluate the mans life work?
With the Mondo Macabro release of 'Panic Beats' (Latidos de Pánico) we get more than enough opportunity to reassess Naschy's work as here he not only wrote the script, but directs and stars in not one, but two lead roles! An example of deluded self-indulgent promotion or a genius at work? In reality neither really, but in fact the output of a man who lives to work in the field he obviously loves so much.
In 'Panic Beats' Naschy (aka Jacinto Molina) plays Paul Marnac, a thoroughly unlikable man who after marrying a wealthy heiress sets about doing his damndest to get rid of his poor wife by monopolising the fact that she has a weak heart. With the aid of one of his many lovers he does just that by utilising the story of one of his old ancestors Alaric de Marnac (Naschy again in a suit of armor waving around a spiked mace in a threatening manner) to strike fear into the poor wifes heart. But as ever with this sort of movie, things aren't just as simple as 'knock off the wife and grab the loot' as Marnac soon finds as a result of surrounding himself with people who are just as devious and murderous as he is - and lest we forget that legend of old great grandpa Alaric de Marnac, surely gramps might make an appearance also?!
I'll be the first to put my hand up and admit that I never was a fan of Paul Naschy's work as a youngster, I was one of those unthinking buffoons who blindly ignored any of the output (save the odd treat like 'Blue Eyes Of The Broken Doll') of folk like Paul Naschy and Jess Franco; but with DVD releases such as this one I've had the chance to reassess any opinion I had of the mans work, swallow my pride and admit that in Naschy's case I was wrong (the same though cannot be said of Franco who to this day is still a talentless hack).
On watching a Naschy film now you cannot help but admire the passion and delivery therein; 'Panic Beats' is a perfect example of such. Naschy's script is simple but well paced and thoroughly enjoyable. The bulk of the characters (outside of the poor housekeeper) are unpleasant and insidious with no redeeming values whatsoever (as ever, just the way we like them - and interestingly a curious recurring scenario for Mondo Macabro's recent releases). Naschy's role as director is handled solidly with well-executed shots and nice use of colour throughout. Perhaps his only downfall is his self indulgence as an actor; very few filmmakers would have the balls to cast themselves in the lead roles let alone give themselves countless scenes of saucy canoodling with every member of the female cast under the age of 50. But I suppose who can blame the guy; as an actor he really isn't that bad (he's a great for the masterful art of the vintage horror look i.e. the face pull and the terror stare) so inevitably we can forgive him for his self-indulgencies; more so when films like this are so bloody and entertaining!
And there's no denying that 'Panic Beats' is indeed wholly entertaining; the film moves along at breakneck (quite literally at times) pace, when they come the moments of bloody carnage are entertainingly over the top and the whole thing plays out like a fun poor mans 'tip of the hat' to Mario Bava's later works. For that alone I raise a glass in admiration to Naschy's all encompassing role as writer, director and (ham) actor supreme - the man loves the genre and who are we to not reciprocate that love to him.
As ever, with any release that falls under the Mondo Macabro banner 'Panic Beats' is not only a fine presentation for the film itself but also a sterling package to complement the movie. The image (yet another anamorphic transfer from the camera negative) is stunning throughout which benefits Naschy's great use of colour and the Spanish audio track is clear enough with decent enough optional English subtitling (though there where one or two wee typo discrepancies but nothing that would ruin even the most pedantic viewers viewing).
On the extras front we get the ever-solid package of Mondo Macabro documentary fun; there's a great documentary covering the history of Spanish genre cinema which includes interviews with not only Naschy but other key players from the Spanish scene like Amando de Ossorio and Jorge Grau. Excellent viewing for newcomers to the scene and a treat for UK fans to lament the much missed Channel Four Mondo Macabro TV series (which this looks to have been adapted from). Also on the extras front we get an all new extended interview with the great man Naschy himself, here he expands his thoughts on his career (including just why he called himself Paul Naschy) as well as his work specifically on 'Panic Beats'; all of which is peppered with entertaining wee anecdotes and exudes his passion for the genre. Rounding things off in this package are a nice collection of production stills (including some from the films theatrical opening) and the ever-included Mondo Macabro promo showreel.
Whilst not a genre classic, 'Panic Beats' is a gutsy (and bloody) entry into the annals of Euro horror history and a welcome entry level movie for newcomers to the wonderful world of Paul Naschy (and for once he doesn't get all wolf like on us!) Likewise Mondo Macabro's presentation is another solid package that will entertain viewers no end. I'm now ready to work my way through some more Naschy fun…bring it on!
Review by Alan Simpson
For ordering info visit the Mondo Macabro website by clicking here.
|Released by Mondo Macabro|
|Not Rated - Region All (NTSC)|
|see main review|