Aussie horror, everett de roche, ozploitation, richard franklin, robert helpmann, susan penhaligon, umbrella entertainment
Patrick, which was released back in 1978 sits firmly in the centre of the Ozploitation scene, a genre of Australian exploitation films that are filled with a mix of low-budget horror, comedy, sexploitation and action that wears its heart on its sleeve.
Directed by Richard Franklin under the penmanship of Everett De Roche (Long Weekend), Patrick could easily be dismissed as farcical but it’s precisely the absurd nature of the storyline that is its appeal.
The film opens with the titular Patrick (Robert Thompson – an actor who should be applauded for his ability to keep his eyes open for an elongated period of time) kills his parents in an oedipal act, throwing an electric heater into a bathtub.
Somehow Patrick ends up in a coma, something that is never fully explained, but is arguably irrelevant when it comes to the telling of the tale and to get said subject into the setting of choice, the Roget Clinic in Melbourne with all the hallmarks of the Bates house in Psycho. This is of no surprise as Franklin is a self-confessed fan of Hitchcock and would go onto direct Roadgames for his follow up feature, a film heavily inspired by the premise of Rear Window.
Surgeons of Horror podcast: Roadgames (1981)
Franklin would even go to direct the sequel to Psycho in 1983.
We follow the film through eyes of nurse Kathie Jacquard (Susan Penhaligon) who is appointed at the hospital to look after Patrick and soon encounters that there more to her patient than meets the eye and that in spite of being physically bound to his bed, has learnt to explore other sensory means through the power of psychokinesis. Her infatuation with this discovery fuels Patrick’s own lustful desires towards Kathie and thus throws those nearest to her into his wrathful rage.
There are some notable support performances on show here that warrant recognition, namely the larger than life Robert Helpmann who plays Dr. Roget and hams up his role, injecting some much-needed melodrama into the mix and moulding the tone of the film despite Franklin’s efforts to tone it down. Equally Julia Blake’s Matron character is suitably insipid, casting a wonderfully dark light across the spectrum of the hospital; and Rod Mullinar who plays Kathie’s wayward husband in contrast to Bruce Barry’s egocentric and potential love interest Dr. Brian.
Perhaps one of the greatest things about this movie is Franklin’s depiction of male empowerment at the heart of the film. With Kathie seemingly trying to break down this impregnable barrier in her life, from her adulterous husband, the cocksure Dr. Brian, to the deranged Dr. Roget..Even Patrick himself who is incompacitated throughout the bulk of the film is trying to exert his will over Kathie, who must ultimately rise above this all.
Upon its release in Australia, Patrick did not receive the praise that it deserves but instead saw greater success abroad, but controversially was heavily dubbed Stateside, in spite of Franklin deliberately casting English actors to gain greater appeal abroad. The irony being that this very move is partly what isolated its homegrown audience.
Since then however it has reached a cult following and even gained a fan from acclaimed American director Quentin Tarantino.
For me, I went in expecting a certain kind of film, which it is, but was happily rewarded by the sheer enjoyment and direction.
It would go on to inspire a sequel in Italy called Patrick Still Lives and then more recently in 2013 a remake would transpire, the latter of which would star Charles Dance and Sharni Vinson (You’re Next) and serves as a double feature alongside the original in a current release by Umbrella Entertainment.
- Saul Muerte