P: Panic Beats (1983)

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No, no, no, I just TOLD you it wasn’t THAT Alaric de Marnac!

Well, here it is. The third of four Paul Naschy movies I managed to schedule this year. The last two, in case you’re joining us late, were Exorcismo and The Valdemar Legacy/La Herencia Valdemar. It was my intent to spread my nets wider for movies this year, and this was the unintended result, aided by the fact that I hadn’t watched many of his movies, I’m sure.

Anyway, let’s just get this out of the way: SPOILER ALERTS FOR A 35 YEAR-OLD MOVIE. I’ll try not to give everything away, but then, up to a point, Panic Beats is pretty predictable. (Also, if you’re a Mondo Macabro fan, their disc-opening promo has already shown you most of the money shots)

We start with that Paul Naschy standard, an opening scene with murder and a naked woman. She’s running bloody through some woods, pursued by a mounted man in a full suit of armor. This is the infamous Alaric de Marnac, last seen in Horror Rises From the Tomb, tracking down and killing his unfaithful wife. Okay, so it’s not really that Alaric de Marnac, but it’s still Paul Naschy.

Yep, that’s Paris, all right.

After credits, cut to present day Paris, where Paul Marnac (still Naschy) is told he has to take his rich wife Genevieve (Julia Saly) away from the hectic life of a Paris socialite, or her heart condition will kill her. Marnac will take her to his remote ancestral home to recuperate, along the way running into bandits (so we’re still having Horror Rises From the Tomb flashbacks), the fright of which nearly kills Genevieve on the spot.

At the house she meets Mabile (Lola Gaos), the housekeeper who has been there forever, and her young thug niece Julie (Frances Ondivela), whom Mabile is trying to reform. Mabile is the receptacle of all the folklore associated with the Marnac family, especially the guy who opened the movie and whose sardonic portrait graces the wall: Good old Alaric, who in this version was not beheaded, but did turn to Satanism and got burned down with his castle. This house was built on its ashes. Supposedly Alaric comes back every hundred years or so to clean house again. This tale gives Julie nightmares because we really needed something interesting to happen at this point.

Slight digression: I’m still not sure if it was wise or not for the movie to name-check Rebecca.

Genevieve slowly regains her strength over the next month. Julie rather sadistically her the story of Alaric, and then things go downhill again. Nightmares, snakes and figures in armor appearing mysteriously in the night. Dinner plates covered with blood and eyeballs. Stuff like that.

Now, it’s going to be obvious to anyone that it’s all a plot to literally scare Genevieve to death. The only question is who, and since there are only two possible suspects, the mystery is not all that engaging. Remember the fright shows with a similar intent in The Tingler? Those were studied models of speed and efficiency compared to the ones in Panic Beats. It is tempting to brand it Milk That Scene: The Movie. I did a lot of time-remaining checking.

Then Genevieve’s heart finally cashes in, the mystery, such as it is, is solved… and there’s still a half hour of movie?!?

At this point Panic Beats  actually managed to engage my interests, as plots and counter-plots emerge, more people have to be killed, and a mysterious figure from Julie’s past emerges, though we’re not allowed to see his face. It does get complicated to a point where we’re not really sure what is real and what is not, and that is generally a type of movie I enjoy.

I was once told that you had to endure the first hour and fifteen minutes of Evilspeak, the Clint Howard shower scenes and puppy killing, just to get to the cool ending. I guess the same criteria holds for Panic Beats, except that first hour wasn’t all that terrible. The best part is Lola Gaos as the housekeeper, really. She can really turn on the scary when she needs to.

Hm. I see Amazon has one DVD available for seventy bucks. Here… Happy Hubrisween!

 

3 Comments

  1. I… I really liked Evilspeak.

    • Do not bring your evil here.

  2. Good gravy. Evilspeak has popped up in more conversations I’ve had this month than when the film was out initially. It’s the “devil” at work or there’s a remake coming…


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