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Panic - aka Bakterion
Tonino Ricci's 1982 film Panic introduces us to Professor Adams (Roberto Ricci), a mad scientist of sorts who has set up shop for himself in a quaint English town where he's researching bacteria of some sort. The experiments that he does on his lab animals soon proves to have unexpected results when they critters turn on one another and kill!
Of course, this being a quickly made, low budget horror movie and all, this dangerous strain of bacteria makes its way into the body of the good doctor, whose face turns into a melted, globby mess and turns him into a bloodthirsty monster. As he goes about picking off horny teenagers first and random townsfolk after that, the murders soon come to the attention of the heroic Captain Kirk (David Warbeck), with some help from Jane Blake (Janet Argen), who finds himself in a rush against time to bring the monster in and stop the bacteria from spreading before the military comes in and lays waste to the entire town!
Fans of cheap, schlocky B-movies will get a kick out of this one. Yeah, fine, it's never convincing in its depictions of its English town setting, this was clearly made in Italy and with a lot of Italians in front of and behind the camera, but that just adds to the goofy fun of the film. Ricci (who was often credited as Anthony Richmond) keeps things moving at a nice clip, pacing the film well and never going too long without giving the audience the sex and violence that it wants from a picture like this. The script might never be particularly concerned with realism or originality but it offers up a few decent gore set pieces and some nubile actresses in a state of undress, and that'll count for something on the B-movie scorecard.
As far as the cast goes, Warbeck is the big draw here. Probably best known in horror movie circles for his work on Lucio Fulci's The Beyond and The Black Cat, he's pretty solid in the lead here (it's also amusing to see him play a character named…. Captain Kirk!), using his fairly dashing screen presence and natural charisma to keep the audience on his side. Ricci is pretty fun as the doctor, hamming it up a bit here and there, while the beautiful Swedish born Janet Argen, who also worked with Fulci on City Of The Living Dead in additiona to starring in cult classics like Umberto Lenzi's Eaten Alive and Sergio Martino's Hands Of Steel, handles her role without any issues and looks great doing it.
The production values are about what you'd expect them to be if you've familiar with low budget Italian horror pictures. If you're not, well, the makeup effects are fun but never particularly convincing. Most of the gore here is pretty cartoonish rather than upsetting or disturbing, but there's the whole quantity over quality thing to consider. The cinematography, courtesy of Giovanni Bergamini, who served as cinematographer on noteworthy Italian genre classics like Cannibal Ferox, The Inglorious Bastards and The Heroin Busters, is quite good, ensuring that the movie always looks pretty decent in terms of lighting and framing. Throw in a score from frequent prolific composter Marcello Giombini, who worked on Erotic Nights Of The Living Dead, Anthropophagous, Emmanuelle 3 and Knife Of Ice to name only a few, and this shapes up well enough even if it never steps up to ‘cult classic' level.
Panic comes to Blu-ray from Code Red on a 25GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen taken from a "2016 HD scan with color correction done here in the States." There's mild print damage noticeable throughout but it's never particularly distracting. The transfer always looks like film, there's plenty of natural grain here, and colors are reproduced pretty nicely. Detail is generally pretty strong here, though some scenes look to have been shot a bit more softly than others. Still, we get decent depth and texture here and the image is free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement.
Code Red offers 24-bit English and Italian DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks for the feature, with subtitles provided that translate the English track. Quality of both tracks is fine, if never mind-blowing. Given that both options were dubbed in post, the English track is actually preferable in a lot of ways as the lip movements match for Warbeck and Agren. Both tracks are nicely balanced, though you might notice some light sibilance here and there. Otherwise, range is about what you'd expect for older mono mixes, the levels are properly balanced. No real issues here, the movie sounds fine.
Extras are limited to trailers for The Fury Of The Wolfman, The Mummy's Revenge, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, and Black Cobra Woman (as Eva Nera) as well as menus and chapter selection.
Code Red's Blu-ray release of Panic is light on extra features but the audio is fine and the transfer is pretty nice. As to the movie itself? Non-discerning fans of Italian Z-grade shlock films will get a kick out of it. It might not be all that original or convincing but it's got enough exploitative content to appease those looking for cheap thrills, so long as they don't go in expecting any more than that. If you fall into that group, consider this one recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.