(Italy/Spain - 1982)
Directed by Anthony Richmond (Tonino Ricci). Written by Jaime Comas and Victor A. Catena. Cast: David Warbeck, Janet Agren, Franco Ressel, Roberto Ricci, Jose R. Lifante, Miguel Herrera, Eugenio Benito, Ovidio Taito, Jose Maria Labernie, Ilaria Maria Bianchi, Fabian Conde, Vittorio Calo, Goffredo Unger. (Unrated, 93 mins)
"What you have seen might really happen...perhaps it already has!" - PANIC closing credits
Sent straight to late-night TV as part of a Cinema Shares syndication package, PANIC is an instantly recognizable staple of the 1980s video store glory days thanks to its gross cover art on the big Gorgon Video clamshell cover box. All these years later, it's still not very good and its minimal charms lie almost exclusively in sentimentality for a bygone era. Nevertheless, I'm all in favor of any obscure horror movie resurrected on Blu-ray, and Code Red's recent release is a huge step up from the dogshit VHS print that's been recycled on several budget "50 Horror Classics" public domain sets from Brentwood and Mill Creek. Despite the upgrade to HD and full color correction that makes it so you can actually see what's going on, PANIC remains a largely terrible movie, but it's the kind of junky, barely competent Eurocult flick that keeps fans of such stuff (like this guy--hey, I make no apologies; if you're reading this, you understand that this is the life we've chosen) always coming back for more.
THE CRAZIES and Umberto Lenzi's NIGHTMARE CITY with its accidentally leaked contagion, created by a pharmaceutical company cleverly called "Chemicale." They claim to manufacture aspirin and antibiotics, but they've been conducting secret experiments in biological and chemical warfare for the British government. A lab mishap makes some rats go insane and turns Professor Adams (Roberto Ricci) into an oozing, monstrous, murderous madman on a citywide rampage. The government is desperate to contain the situation, and Chemicale CEO Milton (Franco Ressel) tries to keep a lid on it, but Adams' altruistic assistant Jane (frequent Ricci star Janet Agren) refuses to play along, teaming with special agent Captain Kirk (David Warbeck) to boldly go where no man has gone before to find Adams. Meanwhile, the government is so concerned with keeping this quiet that they're willing to resort to "Plan Q," which is to basically drop a nuke on London. The film never specifies why Plans A-through-P wouldn't be sufficient.
NIGHT OF THE SHARKS, one of the very few times he managed to secure a real Hollywood actor in the form of Treat Williams. Williams wasn't that far removed from ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and an acclaimed turn in the indie SMOOTH TALK when he was somehow cajoled into appearing in a Tonino Ricci joint, but even with his presence, the dull SHARKS only managed a straight-to-video release in 1990. Ricci retired from filmmaking after the 1998 family adventure BUCK AND THE MAGIC BRACELET, with vacationing American actors like the POLICE ACADEMY franchise's replacement Guttenberg and oblivious HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE husband Matt McCoy and '60s and '70s TV fixture Abby Dalton mixing it up with DEMONS legend Bobby Rhodes and perennial Ricci bestie "Conrad Nichols."
Variety ad on 10/24/1981 with the breaking news
alerting the world to the existence of PANIC
(photo provided by William Wilson)