LATIDOS DE PANICO/PANIC BEATS

1982

Cast: Paul Naschy (Alaric de Marnac & Paul), Paquita Ondiviela (Julie), Julia Saly (Genevieve), Lola Gaos (Mabile), Manuel Zarzo (Dr. Lacombe), Carlos Bravo, Jose Sacristan (Alain), Silvia Miro (Mireille), Jose Vivo (Dr. Rigaud), Salvador Sainz
Director: Jacinto Molina (Paul Naschy)
Screenplay: Jacinto Molina
Photography: Julio Burgos
Editor: Roberto Fandino

Music: Moncho Alpuente, Servando Cavallar, CAM library
Production Company: Aconito Films (Spain)

Running time: 92 min.

Fujicolor

U.S. theatrical release: None

Video: U.S. release on Mexcinema Video Corporation (Spanish language only)

              

Review: Long before the term "erotic thriller" was coined there was LATIDOS DE PANICO, a mean-spirited exploration into the darker realms of human nature and sexual excess.

Paul Naschy, writing and directing under his real name of Jacinto Molina, paints a none-too-flattering portrait of Paul Marnac (portrayed by Naschy), an ancestor of Alaric de Marnac (EL ESPANTO SURGE DE LA TUMBA/HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB), as a much philandering husband who meets a very undignified but righteous end. Marnac suffers from an ailment all too common these daysóhe canít keep his pants zipped. From his beautiful wife, to the seductive young female working in his country household, to a long-suffering mistress; itís hot and cold running sex with few motivating factors save self-satisfaction and greed.

It is a tribute to Naschy that he has never been reluctant about writing his own roles as unlikable and/or bad-to-the-bone. This film, like so many of Naschyís creations, explores this duality of character, dissecting the two sides of every human--the face we want people to see and like, and the real individual that lurks behind that wishful illusion. The entire cast receives the Dorian Gray treatment, sporting false facades that mask their complicated motives and malice. As Naschy, himself, is often split into two separate entities--Jacinto Molina as writer and/or director, and Naschy as actor, so his other characters are also schizophrenic, giving an initial impression which later proves false or at least misleading.

But, please, donít take these comments as negative. Naschy has admirably succeeded in creating a disturbing indictment on the baser nature of mankind, giving rise to whether there is hope for a world populated by sociopaths such as these. His script is a realistic evaluation and, therefore, all the more horrifying considering the newspaper headlines we read on a daily basis.

Naschyís penchant for baring his own pessimistic soul has never been more evident than here. While he can be a grand romantic telling an epic tale of tragic love, the carnal and perverse are also deeply entrenched in his nature. These opposites are constantly at war, with a wily Naschy playing arbiter, trying to find a safe ground where both may express themselves. He cannot write a perfect hero nor a total villain. For him, there is no black or white, only subtle shades of gray that must be filtered and refined to depict a real and flawed human being.

Because of this, with the exception of Genevieve, Marnacís wife, it is difficult to generate sympathy for these manipulators of human emotion. And even she, played by Julia Saly, is shown to be a neurotic who has kept Marnac dancing on a string through much of their marriage. Her wealth has brought him position and power but little respect from his or her friends and family. His own lack of self-worth along with resentment at being dependent on his wife leads him down a dark path of no return. Saly, a favorite Naschy leading lady, is strikingly beautiful, embodying the frailty and grace of a martyr to be.

Silvia Miro as Mireille, Marnacís private secretary and mistress, is a bitchy and arrogant gold digger. After investing five years with him, sheís most unwilling to be traded in for a newer model even though their relationship has turned violent and sour. At one point, she naps, naked, as Marnac sits in a chair beside the bed gazing at her. They have only recently had sex and now he contemplates using one of her stockings to strangle her. It is at this point that heís just beginning to realize he canít touch bottom. Only as Mireille wakes does he relent, betraying his basic weakness and leaving her open to an even worse fate later on.

Paquita Ondiviela is Julie, a young and beautiful girl with a hard edge that betrays her far-from-innocent motives. She wants it all and sheís willing to take any action necessary to achieve her goal. She kills without conscience and is exactly the "monster" Marnac perceives her to be, though even he is unprepared for the shocking way she proves his words.

Lola Gaos is the creepy old housekeeper, Mabile. She has looked after Marnac since he was a child and is, herself, somewhat responsible for the man heís become. She is also the main focus of one truly Bava-esque dream sequence where, with slit throat, she appears to rise from the dead and menace Julie.

All four of these women epitomize another popular Naschy theme--that of the interplay between a dominate woman and a weak-willed man. They all control Marnac in one way or another. Genevieve does not do so willingly but her wealth along with her illness forces him into a subservient role as well as that of care-giver. Mireille uses their adultery as well as his shady business practices as blackmail to keep him in their relationship. Julie uses her youth and beauty to seduce him into a black widowís web of conspiracy. Even Mabile frequently traumatized a young Marnac with horrible stories about Alaricís crimes which caused intense fear and nightmares in the child. Marnac, a man weak of flesh and self-esteem, easily plays into their hands.

This entire plot is then interlaced around the history of Alaric de Marnac, who murdered his own unfaithful wife and three children he couldnít confirm were his own. Legend is that every hundred years he returns to do some house cleaning, dispatching female members of the family who have dishonored the Marnac name. To him goes the duty of getting medieval on Julie for her crimes. Retribution is meted out with extreme prejudice. Her demise and that of Alaricís wife are two of the most brutal murders ever filmed and definitely not for the squeamish.

Julio Burgosí dark and moody cinematography creates a tangible sense of anxiety in Marnacís country estate. The set design with all of Alaricís battle relics still perfectly preserved makes one sometimes forget this story takes place in modern day.

Two particularly annoying things for me were the music and the fact that Julieís boyfriend, Maurice, is seen for only a brief second and then heís only shown from the back or heard as a voice on the other end of the phone or indicated by a POV shot of Julie. These are small complaints, however, and do not detract from the filmís powerful message regarding infidelity, greed and murder.

The Spanish language print quality, decidedly not the best, is superior to the subtitled version from Video Search of Miami. Though some of the finer plot points along with the time frame are easier understood with subtitles, Naschy has created a very visual film that is easy to follow even with the language barrier.

While LATIDOS DE PANICO is one of Naschyís best explorations into human motivation, itís definitely not a Ďfeel-goodí movie--it is an unpleasant story about unpleasant people doing unpleasant things. Donít expect a happy ending!

-- Denetia Arellanes


 

Cover of the Mexcinema video release; this is the source for bootlegs of the film, including Video Search of Miami's subtitled version. Possible video cover or promotional video artwork for the German release of LATIDOS DE PANICO