Thursday, January 27, 2011

DVD REVIEW: Patrick (1978)

PATRICK (1978)
Pt. 1 of 6 reviews from the OZPLOITATION VOLUME 3 (6-Disc Set)

LABEL: Umbrella Entertainment
REGION: Region 0 PAL
DURATION: 108 Min.
RATING: M (R equivalent)
DIRECTOR: Richard Franklin
CAST: Susan Penhaligan, Robert Helpmann
TAGLINE: He's In a Coma... Yet He Can Kill

PLOT: In room 15 of the mysterious Roget clinic lies a young comatose murderer  named PATRICK. His doctor thinks he's nothing more than 170 pounds of limp meat hanging off a comatose brain, but a young nurse, Kathy (Susan Penhaligon from THE UNCANNY), knows very differently. Patrick has burgeoning psychic powers and a crush on Kathy - and his affection is about to turn into a deadly and bloody obsession!

FILM: PATRICK (1978) comes to us by way of Aussie director Richard Franklin whom is noted for several films; the slasher ROAD GAMES (1981) starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Stacey Keach, one of the more Hitchcockian Psycho sequels PSYCHO II (1983) and a film near and dear to my heart - CLOAK AND DAGGER (1984) starring Dabney Coleman which I caught a screening of at the Willard Psychiatric Center in Willard NY when I was 13 years of age. Before your imagination runs wild dear reader you should know that I wasn't committed to the institution but my father worked there and was privy to the fact that the institution screened 35mm prints of films for the patients once a month in a great old auditorium and somehow a few of us neighborhood kids were allowed inside to watch while seated quite literally next to the clinically insane. I saw a ton of great stuff there and a lot of it I wouldn't consider appropriate for the venue but whatever. On yet another aside the book 'The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic' is a great read and tells the haunting stories of several patients whom lived and died at the Willard Psychiatric Center in Willard, New York. It's a poignant and slightly disturbing read about the perceptions and treatment of those who may or may not have been afflicted with mental illness. On a lighter note, the show Ghost Hunters also recorded an episode at the institution. Here's are a smattering of films I recall watching at the venue: GREYSTOKE THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (1984), FOUL PLAY (1978), SPIES LIKE US (1985), GANDHI (1982), 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), GOONIES (1985), KING KONG LIVES (1986) and many others I seem to have forgotten. It's a matter of some debate but I swear I saw ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST (1975) there but that can't be, can it? I would love to find out who programmed that theatre. What a weird venue for film but I can trace my love for cinema to that nutty place during a special time in my life. 

Well, the long and short of it is that it's appropriate that I discovered the films of Richard Franklin through a viewing of CLOAK AND DAGGER (1984) at a psychiatric center when the film PATRICK (1978)  takes place at the Roget Clinic which a bit of convalescent nut house. At the start of the film Patrick (Robert Thompson) is forced to endure the sounds of his mother and her lover as they have a bit of nasty fun in the tub. This is just too much for the disturbed young man to bare and he interrupts their frolicking by tossing a space heater into the tub which lands squarely on his mother's back searing her flesh like a steak on the grill, sizzle sizzle. While gruesome this was not the intended outcome. When her lover tosses the heater out of the tub Patrick throws it in again electrocuting both with nary any sign of emotion on his face. Now it's three years later Patrick is at the Roget Clinic in a vegetative state. It's not quite clear why but perhaps psychological trauma from the event. The clinic is staffed by the cantankerous physician Dr. Roget (Robert Helpmann) and the creepy Matron Cassiday (Julia Blake) who have just hired a new nurse named  Kathy  Jacqaurd (Susan Penhaligon) who's new in town and recently separated from her husband Ed (Rod Mullinar). She's been assigned to room 15 where the coma stricken Patrick  is  sustained by life support. Right away she is struck by the fact that Patrick's eyes are wide open, they stare intensely off into the distance and it's pretty unnerving stuff. He also reflexively spits on occasion (which I think Tarantino homages in KILL BILL VOL. 1). As she goes about her routine bathing and caring for him she comes to realize that he is somehow aware and quickly things get weird from there beginning with him being able to pass her alarming notes through the typewriter. Not only has Patrick developed a crush on the attentive nurse but when the hunky Dr. Wright (Bruce Berry) hits on her at a party he is nearly drowned by an invisible force, Patrick is using newly developed psychokinetic powers to ward off any would be suitors. Angered by her interactions with other men Patrick trashes her small apartment which she blames on her estranged husband. Eventually Kathy comes to realize that Patrick is somehow manipulating her and influencing those she cares for building to a final shocking psychokinesis fueled crescendo.

One of PATRICK's best qualities is the tense and atmospheric pace but I fear it may be too slow for younger or impatient audiences. The dialogue is well-written, the acting is great and there's no denying that director Richard  Franklin is a true Hitchcock devotee with some great homages throughout. Even the late composer Brain May's score recalls Bernard Herman's iconic themes. The film's special effects are pretty minimal to be sure,  there are only 3 moments of minimal grue throughout the film. It is a credit to the direction of Richard Franklin that PATRICK is an effective a shocker given the limiting nature of the film's comatose protagonist.

DVD: The film is presented in a 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 aspect ratio transfer with English 2.0 Mono audio. No subtitle options are provided. There's a good amount of grain present stemming from inferior film stock from what I've read but not distractingly so. The image is soft and  lacks detail but looks quite good nonetheless. There's an interesting anecdotal commentary with Frankin filled with references to Hitchcock, an assortment of OZploitation trailers, a 1978 on-set interview with the late Franklin and a 2008 interview with producer Antony L. Ginnane who relates several colorful recollections of the film and Franklin. A PDF of the an unproduced sequel treatment is also included. A very fine disc indeed, and this is just one of 6 films on the OZploitation Vol. 3 set. Things I would have liked to seen on this disc are the making of featurette from the Patrick: Ultimate OZploitation Edition and I think the filmscore used in the Italian market by frequent Dario Argento collaborators Goblin would have made a fantastic alternate audio option. Legend tells of the original cut of the film being a whopping 140 minutes. Perhaps someday someone will find the missing 32 minutes of film and a truly special edition will emerge. That would truly be the METROPOLIS of OZploitation films.

- Brand new 16x9 transfer
- A Coffee Break with Antony I. Ginnane (15:55)
- Archival on-set interview with Richard Franklin (7:27)
- Audio commentary with Director Richard Franklin
- Excerpt from dubbed US version (3:29)
- The Man Who Wasn't There: Story outline for the unproduced PATRICK sequel (PDF)
- Original Australian Trailer (2:57)
- US trailer (1:38)
- Stills and poster gallery
- Antony I. Ginnane Trailer Reel: Snapshot (2:11) 16:9, Thirst (1:37), Harlequin (2:43) 16:9, The Survivor (2:50) , Turkey Shoot (2:40) 16:9, The Time Guardian (1:29)
- More Umbrella Ozploitation Trailers: Road Games (2:12) 16x9, Long Weekend (2:02) 16:9, Razorback (2:21) 16:9, The Chain Reaction 3:23) 16:9

VERDICT: Richard Franklin's PATRICK (1978) is a high recommend from me. This Aussie exploitation gem is deliberately paced, well-acted and truly wonderful. The concept sounds limiting but trust me on this it's a great watch. While this 6-disc set is an Australian exclusive it should be noted that the discs are region free and playable worldwide, so dig in! ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

This is but one of six reviews forthcoming from UMBRELLA ENTERTAINMENT's  OZPLOITATION VOL. 3. It's chock full of Aussie Ozploitation goodness featuring some of the most madcap and erotic exploitation films from The Outback! Prepare yourself for reviews of the following films to come your way in short order. Listed below are the other five films on the set. Up next -for review: Dennis Hopper in MAD DOG MORGAN (1976).

You call that exploitation? Now this is exploitation!

AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK (1975) At Last! The Australia you've always wanted to see - but until now have never DARED! A kinky collection of 37 unusual and titillating stories

THE ABC OF LOVE AND SEX (1977) A witty look between the sheets at modern sex and love – 1978 style! Not only the ultimate guide to getting it up down under – it’s the holy grail of true-blue retro skinema!
BARRY McKENZIE HOLDS HIS OWN (1974) Excitement brews and Fosters flows as Bazza sets out to rescue the Dame-to-be in distress from the clutches of Erich Count Plasma (Donald Pleasence), the sinister head of the Transylvanian Tourist Commission. Can Bazza pull it off?

MAD DOG MORGAN (1976) Set in gold rush-era Victoria, and based on a true story, this violent, rollickingg portrayal of infamous Irish outlaw Dan Morgan (a bravura performance from an intense Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now) is a classic of Australias 70s cinema renaissance.

LES PATTERSON SAVES THE WORLD (1987) The one-time Australian Minster for the 'Yarts', Sir Leslie Colin Patterson KBE (Barry Humphries), is a lecherous, drunken, chain-smoking slob and vaunted cultural attache. Now, Sir Les has received a promotion, as Australia's ambassador to the United Nations, and is sent to an oil-rich Gulf state to try to make peace after a UN blunder.

FELICITY (1978) Felicity (the gorgeous Glory Annen) is a sheltered teen who surrenders her blossoming body to a world of bold sexual adventure in this homegrown erotic sin-sation from sexy Ozploitation auteur John D. Lamond.