Patrick (1978)

In an age where animal welfare in filmmaking is regulated to ensure they come to no harm, it’s hugely funny (to me if no one else) to see a film ending with a credit advising that the frog you see getting killed in the film was killed under a zoologist’s supervision. Interesting, too, to hear Richard Franklin trying again to pretend Fantasm didn’t happen in his DVD commentary, though Tony Ginnane casually drops the “F” word in his video interview. By comparison with Long Weekend, Patrick lives up much more to what the trailer promises. Franklin brought Ginnane exactly the sort of story the latter was looking to produce, i.e. a genre piece that’d sell well and wouldn’t necessarily play as an “Australian” film; the end result was, of course, an enormous hit outside of Australia (where it was a failure) whose geographical origins are arguably only really given away by the accents (and even those are disposed of in the hideous American dub, bits of which are featured on the DVD). Patrick is embodied by one Robert Thompson, and it’s a pretty remarkable performance considering he’s immobile on a bed for almost the entire film; Robert Helpmann is a surprisingly inspired bit of casting, too, as the weird doctor who runs the clinic Patrick is confined to. It’s pretty good on the whole, no real discernible weaknesses that I picked up on, but it’s possibly a bit long at 112 minutes, though the original version was even longer at 140 minutes before Franklin took scissors to it; as I’m sure I’ve said before, films like this really need to be as compact as they can to stop the thrills diffusing, and I’m not sure it wouldn’t have benefitted from a slight tightening up. Still, I can see why this is generally highly regarded, and I’m glad I waited for a good DVD edition to come out (though I can’t believe Umbrella couldn’t get a good PAL transfer of an Australian film and had to use an American NTSC version)…

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