PATRICK (1978) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Richard Franklin
Severin Films

The king of Ozploitation films, Richard Franklin's PATRICK, gets the bump up to high definition courtesy of Severin Film's Blu-ray/DVD combo.

Separated from her husband Ed (Rod Mullinar, DEAD CALM), British ex-pat nurse Kathy Jacquard (Susan Penhaligon, SOLDIER OF ORANGE) returns to the work force after three years at the small private clinic of Dr. Roget (Robert Helpmann, THE RED SHOES). She is put in charge of Roget's patient in room fifteen: Patrick (Robert Thompson, THIRST), comatose for three years after murdering his mother (Carole-Ann Aylett, who also appeared in the Franklin's ROAD GAMES) and her lover (Paul Young, MAD MAX). As she watches over Patrick, Kathy becomes convinced that the patient is aware of his surrounding, but fails to convince Matron Cassidy (Julia Blake, MY BRILLIANT CAREER) who is wary of "lesbians, nymphomaniacs, enema specialists…" who would apply to such a small clinic offering miserable pay and abominable working hours. The mysterious Dr. Roget dismisses her concerns, but he has a sinister interest in Patrick and monitors him with various pieces of medical equipment towards experimental ends. When Patrick's awareness seems to extend to telekinetic control of his environment Kathy consults playboy neurologist Brian (Bruce Barry, NED KELLY) but this gets her into hot water with the secretive Roget and the officious matron, as well as making Patrick jealous causing him to lash out telekinetically at anyone who might stand in between him and Kathy.

A classic of the Ozploitation genre – even if the nudity and graphic violence is rather restrained compared to some of producer Antony Ginnane's other works or the censor-baiting ones of fellow countryman John Lamond (AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK) – PATRICK is stylistically indebted to Alfred Hitchcock and even PSYCHO more so than any other low budget horror film that exhibited some clever cutting during a murder. Franklin had studied at UCLA where he ran Hitchcock retrospectives while the director was still alive, and was even on the set of FAMILY PLOT. Among the obvious PSYCHO references are the coverage of the interior and exterior of the Roget Clinic itself with its neon sign and high angled shots of characters entering the sinister building and climbing its creepy staircase, overhead shots of characters making their way down the corridor to Patrick's room, as well as Patrick's backstory and the optically-augmented close-ups of voyeuristic eyes. Like PSYCHO II, Franklin's indebtedness to Hitchcock in general is in the cinematographic language itself rather than just a few obvious visual homages. It was on the strength of PATRICK that Franklin was hired to direct Universal's PSYCHO II, although between these two films he also directed ROAD GAMES with Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis. PATRICK was remade in 2013 (likely the impetus for remastering the original in HD) with Charles Dance (SWIMMING POOL) as Dr. Roget, Rachael Griffiths (TV's SIX FEET UNDER) as Marton Cassidy, Sharni Vinson (YOU'RE NEXT) as Kathy, and TV actor Jackson Gallagher as Patrick.

Stateside, PATRICK was one of the last theatrical releases by Allan Shackleton's Monarch Releasing in 1979 in a shortened 96-minute version with an American dub track a la American International's release of MAD MAX (presumably the pre-credit sequence's full frontal nudity was among the deleted footage given the PG rating). It was reissued in the early eighties by Cinema Shares International. This abbreviated version was released on VHS by Harmonyvision in 1981 and then by Magnum Entertainment in 1990. The uncut Australian version was among the first round of Ozploitation films to hit DVD via Elite Entertainment in 2002; however, unlike the Panavision titles THIRST, DARK FORCES, and STRANGE BEHAVIOR, the 1.85:1-framed PATRICK was a non-anamorphic transfer (Synapse rectified this in 2008 when they reissued the title). Severin's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC-encoded 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray follows the Australian Blu-ray from last October (both of which likely motivated by the 2013 remake). The photography of Don McAlpine (PREDATOR) was always interesting in its execution of Hitchcockian homage camera angles and movements, but the HD remastering also lends the overall look a slickness that was lacking on Elite's SD treatment which did not bely the film's Australian $400,000 budget (some underexposed shots as well as a shot of optical slow motion are still a little noisy).

Audio options include the original English track, as well as dubs in French, Spanish, and Italian in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Despite Severin's failure to take advantage of the format's lossless or uncompressed audio options (the Australian Blu-ray features only a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track of the Australian English version), the Italian dub track is interesting in that it features the alternate score by progressive rock band Goblin (Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA) commissioned by the Italian distributor (the Italian version ran just over one hundred minutes compared to the 112 minute original so it defaults to the English track in spots). May's elegant orchestral score bolstered Franklin's Hitchcockian homage aesthetics, while the Goblin score lends the film a different atmosphere, sometimes languid and sometimes bombastic (tracks were recycled a few years later by Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso for THE OTHER HELL). Sadly, the film cannot be watched with the Italian track and English subtitles (the UK 2-disc special edition of George Romero's MARTIN featured a reconstruction of the Goblin-scored Italian cut of that film titled WAMPYR with subtitles). PATRICK was sufficiently successful in Italy to warrant a sleazy and gory unofficial sequel/rip-off called PATRICK LIVES AGAIN directed by Mario Landi (GIALLO A VENEZIA) and scripted by Piero Regnoli (BURIAL GROUND).

Extras include an audio commentary track with the late Richard Franklin that was recorded for the 2002 DVD. Franklin concedes the film's heavy debt to Hitchcock and is happy to point out all of the touches meant to emulate his films (pointing out that he had no idea at that time that he would be asked just a few years later to direct a sequel to PSYCHO) as well as some unconscious touches he discovered later. Of Brian May's quotation of Stravinsky's "Rites of Spring", he tells us that it's a JAWS tribute but that PSYCHO II composer Jerry Goldsmith later told him that Bernard Hermann quoted it in the shower scene for the original film. He also makes brief mention of the "semi-true" story that inspired the film, as well as a real onset injury to actor Helpmann.

New to American viewers are extras from the Umbrella import including extended versions of interviews with Franklin, screenwriter Everett de Roche (LONG WEEKEND), producer Antony Ginnane, and stars Penhaligon and Mullinar (61:05) originally recorded for Mark Hartley's Ozploitation documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD. Penhaligon took the job because she wanted to go to Australia and her perception at the time of Australian films as being artier than the horror films she made in England. She speaks highly of Franklin and his love for Hitchcock's work (including how he described the scenes they were filming), and recalls acting with Helpmann (who she thought was a little over-the-top but loved his stories of working with the stars), Thompson, and flirty/stoned Mullinar, as well as the special effects that frustrated Franklin. Mullinar speaks about the high profile of the project, the special effects for the scene where his hands are burnt, Franklin's "pre-editing" style of directing – like Penhaligon previously and Franklin on the commentary – hash-smoking Helpmann breaking his back lifting Robert Thompson in the final scene, as well as the American dubbing of the film and his earlier BREAKER MORANT (he also admits that the PATRICK's shock ending was corny).

Franklin covers much of the same information as on the commentary track (appropriate since this extra wasn't produced for the film) and goes into more detail about the basis of the story, Everett de Roche's original draft (the backstory of which was closer the anecdote he described so they just "ripped off PSYCHO" for the opening), and the film's poor reception in Australia and its colossal success at Cannes. He also mentions that his intended lead for PATRICK was Jenny Agutter (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON), but that she was not available and producer Ginnane recommended Penhaligon (Agutter would later appear in the Ginnane-produced THE SURVIVOR). Franklin also recalls not minding the Americans re-editing the film but was incensed at the redubbing (Helpmann sued the American company and won), and also discusses the Italian "sequel" which he was flattered by despite its gore. De Roche also discusses the basis of the script – which had sat around for five years before being taken up by Ginnane and Franklin – and not only goes into a bit more detail about the story that inspired the script but provides some clarity about how Patrick wound up in a coma.

Ginnane talks about going against the prevailing Australian culture at the time, making genre films rather than ones with cultural significance and finding people like De Roche who were interested in working in the genre (describing Franklin as "a surfer who likes movies"). Like Franklin, he concedes that De Palma was first in embracing Hitchcockian homages. He also discusses the primitive state of Australian filmmaking at the time with regard to special effects, opticals, and some of the more complex camera set-ups, as well as the stuntwork. He mentions that Franklin had input on the American cut of the film but not the redubbing, and recalls its performance theatrically and on American television (and he feels that it would not have sold to television as an Australian picture), as well as in Italy where he felt the Goblin scoring got the film notoriety in that country (he is less pleased about the Italian "sequel" than Franklin but they were able to bar its distribution outside of Italy until the recent DVD release).

Also from the import is a vintage TV interview with Franklin (20:24) shot during ROAD GAMES, in which he recalls his days at UCLA, directing episodes of HOMICIDE for Australian television (still in black and white in 1971) and his love of genre filmmaking. He recalls being given de Roche's script for the first draft of PATRICK by fellow director Simon Wincer (who would direct HARLEQUIN for producer Anthony Ginnane), as well as the fine line between suspense and comedy (discussing the British film DOMINIQUE IS DEAD as a film where a lack of "breathers" made the tension monotonous). He also discusses his involvement as co-producer on BLUE LAGOON. For the chase scenes of ROAD GAMES, he confesses to consulting George Miller because of his work on MAD MAX (who then pointed him to the chase scene in BEN HUR). Too-lengthy clips from PATRICK, BLUE LAGOON (including excerpts from that film's making-of featurette), and ROAD GAMES may have impressed viewers in early video days but most viewers now will probably fast forward. The film's American trailer (1:51) is included here – Severin has dropped the Australian trailer also seen on the earlier DVDs – as well as three U.S. TV spots (0:54). Check the special features menu for an Easter Egg of the American CBS TV promo spot (0:30) and another one for PATRICK LIVES AGAIN (2:43). (Eric Cotenas)