Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Blu-ray Review: PATRICK (1978)

PATRICK (1978)
Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region 0 PAL
Duration: 96 Minutes
Rating: R

Audio: English Dolby Digital 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.77:1)
Director: Richard Franklin
Cast: Susan Penhaligan, Robert Helpmann, Robert Thompson

The Ozploitation shocker Patrick (1978) is directed by Aussie Richard Franklin whom directed several notable films including the slasher Road Games (1981), one of the more Hitchcockian Psycho sequels and the very underrated children's fantasy-thriller Cloak and Dagger (1984) which is the film that first introduced me to the works of the director. 

Patrick takes place at the Roget Clinic which a bit of convalescent home for the insane. At the start of the film Patrick (Robert Thompson, Thirst) is forced to endure the sounds of his mother and her lover as they have a bit of nasty fun in the tub. This turns out to be just too much for the disturbed young man to bare and he interrupts their fornicating by tossing a space heater into the tub which lands squarely on his mother's back searing her flesh. Her lover tosses the heater out of the tub and Patrick throws it in again electrocuting both with nary any sign of emotion on his face. Now three years later Patrick is a patient at the Roget Clinic in a vegetative state. It's not quite clear why he ended up that way but one can assume psychological trauma from the event. The clinic is staffed by the cantankerous physician Dr. Roget (Robert Helpmann, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and the creepy Matron Cassiday (Julia Blake, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) who have just hired a new nurse named Kathy Jacqaurd (Susan Penhaligon, The Land That Time Forgot) who's new in town and recently separated from her husband Ed (Rod Mullinar, Dead Calm). 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 more aware than she at first suspected, things get weird from there beginning with Patrick passing her alarming notes through a nearby typewriter. Patrick develops a crush on the attentive young nurse but when a Dr. (Bruce Berry) hits on her at a after hours party he is nearly drowned by an invisible force dragging him to the bottom of the pool. It seems Patrick is using his newly developed psychokinetic powers to ward off any would be suitors, he's a jealous type. Angered by her interactions with other men Patrick trashes her small apartment which she at first attributes to her estranged husband. Eventually Kathy realizes that Patrick is manipulating her and influencing those she cares for building up to a shocking psychokinesis fueled crescendo that's absolutely fantastic.

One of the film's strongest attributes is its tense and atmospheric pace which I fear may be a bit slow for an audiences whom may not appreciate a slow-burn the way I do. The dialogue is well-written, the acting is great and you just cannot deny 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 Hitchcockian themes. The film's special effects are pretty minimal to be sure with just three moments of gore 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, a first-rate cult-classic.

Blu-ray: As with their recent releases of the Ozploitation cult-classics Thirst (1979) and Dead Kids (1980) Severin have gone back to the original negatives to produce a brand-new HD transfer framed in it's original widescreen (1.77:1) aspect ratio and it's again quite an improvement over my standard-def Australian import from Umbrella Entertainment. There's a nice layer of natural film grain and with it some noticeable fine detail. I would not call this is a crisp presentation but there is a modest amount of depth and clarity lacking previously, colors are strong and the black levels are very nice. 

Unlike the Dead Kids Blu-ray from Severin we do not have an uncompressed audio track and instead  they've opted for an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono presentation with no subtitle options. Audio is clean and comes through nicely with no discernible distortions, Brian May's score sounds great. 

Special features include an anecdotal commentary with director Richard Frankin filled with references to Hitchcock plus a on-set interview with the late director during the filming of Road Games  (1981). The lone only new feature is actually recycled extended interviews from Mark Hartley's sensational doc Not Quite Hollywood, who directed the Patrick remake. There are just over an hours worth of interviews with Director Richard Franklin, Screenwriter Everett de Roche (Razorback), Producer Antony Ginnane and stars Susan Penhaligon and Rod Mullinar 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary With Director Richard Franklin
- Interviews With Director Richard Franklin, Screenwriter Everett de Roche, Producer Antony Ginnane and Stars Susan Penhaligon and Rod Mullinar (61:01) 
- Vintage TV Interview With Director Richard Franklin (20:25) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (1:52) 
- TV Spots
- Easter Egg: Patrick Still Lives Trailer

Verdict: Richard Franklin's Patrick (1978) is a high recommend, the Aussie exploitation classic is a well acted slow-burn and pretty damn creepy, no small feat considering the protagonist is comatose! The concept sounds limiting but trust me this is a great watch and the new transfer looks fantastic, love that these bizarre Aussie b-movie treasures are getting the 1080p upgrades from Severin Films. 3.5 Outta 5