Color, 1978, 112m.
Directed by Richard Franklin
Starring Susan Penhaligon, Robert Helpmann, Rod Mullinar, Bruce Barry, Julia Blake, Robert Thompson
Severin (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Synapse, Elite (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), Umbrella (Australia R0 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
The big kahuna among the Aussie horror wave of the '70s and early '80s, Patrick was essentially conceived as a Down Under response to Carrie but broke out far more than expected thanks to its director, Hitchcock disciple Richard Franklin, who went on to such films as Road Games and Psycho II. At the time he mainly had TV work and pseudonymous softcore offerings like Fantasm under his belt, but after this one, there was no turning back.
After he offs his mother and her lover in the bathtub thanks to an electric heater, young Patrick (Thompson) gets wheeled into the Roget Institute, a hospital where he winds up under the care of a new nurse, Kathy (Penhaligon). This particular caregiver comes with her own set of baggage courtesy of an estranged husband (Mullinar) and a potential new flame at work, Brian (Barry). Meanwhile the man in charge, Doctor Roget (Helpmann), takes an interest when Patrick shows signs of awareness of Kathy's presence, including moving objects around, frying people's hands, and communicating on a typewriter. However, things soon start to get out of control when it becomes clear that the vegetative patient might still have the ability to kill.
Considering its reputation, Patrick has had a very rocky history both in theaters and on home video. As was common practice at the time, the Aussie voices were dubbed with flat American accents for a heavily cut (96 minutes), PG-rated release by Vanguard, and the subsequent VHS release in the early '80s from Harmonyvision was a blurry mess. (Among the footage casualties were a lot of exposition, which wasn't that much of a loss, and some brief but pretty startling nudity in the opening scene.) Subsequent releases on VHS were marginal improvements including one from Magnum Video (a precursor to Blue Underground), and the uncut version with original voices intact made its stateside bow on DVD courtesy of Elite Entertainment. Unfortunately that disc was non-anamorphic and had almost all of its color drained away, leaving the film looking pale, gray, and lifeless. Synapse took another stab at it in 2008 with a fresh 16x9 polish, much stronger colors, and extras including the Aussie and American trailers, three TV spots, and a fine audio commentary recorded for the Elite disc with Franklin walking through the production of his first major title. It's a solid listen (with an odd segue in the middle from another participant, writer Everett De Roche) as he covers the special effects-laden climax and the state of the film's mysterious, much longer rough cut.
Outside the U.S., Patrick turned out to be a big hit in Italy where the original score by Brian May (who was apparently a requirement on 90% of the genre films around that time) was replaced with a new one by Goblin, a tactic also employed for the Italian release of George Romero's Martin (which was mainly culled from tracks on their non-soundtrack albums). The Patrick score was original though, and it earned a quality CD release from Cinevox even while that version remained impossible to see outside of the Italian home video releases. That theatrical success also spawned a much, much sleazier Italian sequel, Patrick Still Lives, which took things to a completely different level.
That brings us to the 2014 release from Severin, a Blu-ray/DVD combo timed to coincide with a theatrical remake helmed by Mark Hartley, the guy behind the great Aussie exploitation doc Not Quite Hollywood (which in turn spawned new interest in this film). As with their almost simultaneous reissues of Dead Kids and Thirst, the HD version marks a substantial jump in quality all around with a particular boost in color reproduction, which is now much stronger and more impressive. The stylized lighting really jumps out now in several scenes, with reds in particular gaining prominence like never before. The texture of the film is fairly thick and gritty for the most part, particularly in scenes with lower lighting, but that comes with the territory. The DTS-HD mono audio defaults to the original English (Aussie-accented) soundtrack, with options in French and Spanish. However, the big news here is that the Italian track is present as well for the first time in the U.S. with its glorious Goblin music intact, and even without English subs, it's a wild experience.
The same commentary is carried over along with the U.S. trailer (also seen on Severin's wild Ozploitation Trailer Explosion) and TV spots, but there's quite a bit more here as well. A whopping 61 minutes of interview footage conducted for Not Quite Hollywood is included with Patrick participants including the late Franklin, Penhaligon (who praises the film's class and mentions one moment she feels went too far), De Roche, Mullinar, and producer Antony Ginnane, all of whom paint a thorough portrait of the local industry at the time and mention the Hitchcock elements quite a bit. The perspective of the British Penhaligon is especially interesting as she talks about hopping to this right after Pete Walker's The Confessional. There's also a separate 25-minute interview with Franklin from the early '80s, sourced from VHS and apparently shot to tie in with Road Games, in which he talks about his own filmmaking methods and how hanging out on the set with Hitchcock proved to be highly influential. You'll also barely have to look for a couple of Easter eggs, the trailer for Patrick Still Lives and a vintage CBS promo offering a sample of some clunky American dubbing. Needless to say, it's a massive upgrade all around and definitely recommended.
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Reviewed on March 15, 2014.