going to work for Hammer on such classic titles as The
Reptile, Plague of the
Scarlet Blade and The
Brigand of Kandahar, director John Gilling had spent
fifteen years churning out efficient low budget programmers, of
which this was the last. A tight little thriller, Panic
might not be Earth-shattering stuff, but does its job effectively.
Janine Gray plays Janine Heining, a Swiss girl living in London
who gets mixed up with shady trumpet player Johnnie (Dyson Lovell).
Too slick for his own good, Johnnie dreams of the big time and,
unknown to Janine, is involved with a gang who are planning a
robbery of the diamond merchant where Janine works. But the robbery
is badly bungled – Janine’s boss is killed and she
is hit on the head, causing memory loss. As she wanders through
London trying to piece together her past, helped by has-been boxer
Glyn Houston, both the police (who treat her as the prime suspect)
and the criminals are trying to track her down.
With a supporting cast of familiar faces (Marne Maitland from
The Reptile; Milton Reid), Panic might
not be as exciting as the opening theme and credits do their best
to claim, but it’s nevertheless an effective, albeit insubstantial
thriller. Gilling does a good job of portraying a London full
of seedy characters – only Houston’s punchy boxer
seems honest, and even then, you know he’s only helping
Janine because he fancies her – and like so many other low
budget exploitation films of the era, the film does an effective
job of showing an underworld that more mainstream films barely
hinted at. Revelling in the sordidness of the subject, it’s
easy to imagine that a few years later, Panic would’ve been
packed with gratuitous nudity and gritty violence.
The film is somewhat let down by its lead: Gray struggles to be
sympathetic (instead often seeming simply pathetic) and as she
has to carry much of the story, this is an issue. But the supporting
cast are all impressively convincing, and the story itself downbeat
enough to work anyway – at the end, we’re left with
a couple of broken characters (physically and emotionally) whose
lives are shattered – an admirably dark and ambiguous ending
for the time, and a worthy finale to a film that is a must for
fans of obscure Britsploitation.
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