Welcome to the Roget Clinic, a place which attracts certain types including “lesbians, nymphomaniacs, enema specialists, zoophiliacs, necrophiliacs, paedophiliac, scopophiliacs, exhibitionists and voyeurs”, and that’s just the staff! Inside the private Melbourne clinic resides a variety of patients in various psychological states. Patrick (Robert Thompson) is one of these patients, spending his days in the cold and barren Room 15 with only terrified nurses for company. Patrick was a matricidal boy who killed his mother and her lover in a fit of jealous rage and has spent the last three years brain dead and on life support, being kept alive purely to feed Dr. Roget’s (the celebrated dancer/actor Sir Robert Helpmann) obsession with monitoring the exact moment a person dies.
The story is brought alive with the arrival of nurse Kathy Jacquard (Susan Penhaligon) who is given the noon ‘til 9 shift to watch over Patrick and quickly comes to believe that he can understand the world around him and goes as far as to claim that he can control objects and the actions others through his mind.
As Kathy attempts to draw Patrick out of his coma she chats about how she is also attempting to separate from her husband Ed and what is going on with a potential love-interest Brian, a neurologist who is familiar with Patrick’s case and Dr. Roget’s experiments. Kathy’s assumptions about Patrick’s mental abilities prove to be correct, yet she doesn’t count on his possessive nature and the damage he is capable of doing to both her and those around her.
The slow build-up of tension throughout the film is aided largely by the musical score with full credit going to Brian May. May went on to do film scores of Mad Max (1979), Turkey Shoot (1982) and Roadgames (1981, again working with Franklin as director). As well as these, May wrote the similar score for Harlequin (1980) which I greatly disliked yet here, in this collection of patients, staff, boyfriends, police and a telekinetic patient watching over them all the eerie sounds work well with the images presented.
A major point of congratulations must be given to the acting of Julia Blake in her Nurse Ratched inspired role. As the spinster Matron Cassidy, the self-titled “boss-cocky” of the hospital, Blake plays the cold and hardened nurse with extreme precision and with just a touch of well deserved fear toward the power Patrick posses but which she refuses to acknowledge.
Patrick is a film that pays great homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in numerous ways. The film’s title is written in the same font as Hitchcock’s classic, the film’s director Richard Franklin purposely set the clinic in an abandoned private hotel in Melbourne’s South Yarra that looks distinctly like the Bates house, Franklin himself went on to director the 1983 feature Psycho II, and just as Norman did, Patrick has extreme mother issues. There is even a remade shower scene in which Kathy’s ex breaks into her apartment whilst she is hidden behind the shower screen.
Having been made on a budget of less than $400,000 Patrick did extremely well overseas. It beat out Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatcher’s (1978) and Carpenter’s Halloween (1979) to win the Grand Prix Jury Prize in the French Avoriaz Fantasy Film Festival. It screened well throughout the 1978 Cannes festival, Franklin won Best Director in the 1978 Spanish International Film Festival and had spawned an Italian-made ‘sequel’ a year later. Recently it has been referenced in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume 1 - I shall leave you to figure out where. It was announced earlier this year that there will be a remake, thus I suggest you all see the original before the butchering begins.