Mental Health Awareness Month: Patrick (1978)

Hello folks and welcome back. In this third week of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’m going to do something a bit different. I’m going to talk about a movie that does surely contain a crazy person, but what I want to focus on is what drove me crazy about this flick. After I trudged through this one, I felt the need for some therapy or perhaps some shock treatment to stimulate my brain, but I toughed it out. After all it’s just not that interesting sitting around for a couple of hours with a guy like….

Patrick (1978)  starring Robert Thomas,  Susan Pantaloon , and Rod Mullinar. Directed by Richard Franklin.

When a young nurse gets a job at a hospital for mental patients, she is given the worst assignment, babysitting the catatonic Patrick. She begins to develop empathy for her silent, motionless patient and is very kind to him. Over the course of time, she begins to believe he is more aware of his surroundings that anyone knows, and when people around her begin to get hurt and killed, she suspects that somehow Patrick is behind it all.

The Bugg Speaks

Ok, before I get into it, let me say that this film, coming on the heels of Carrie in 1976, telekinetic killers were all the rage. In fact Carrie director De Palma went right back to the well with his 1978 feature The Fury. So when Australian director Richard Franklin, who had previously dabbed in more sexploitation fare, took on this film, it was not the most original thing on the block. That being said, daring make your titular character an unmoving, unblinking coma patient is quite a daring twist. One that I’m not sure pays off. 

The problem is that the killer never moves a muscle or speaks a word, Sure eventually he uses his super brain powers to do some light typing, but how menacing can typing be. The killer is represented in the film by camera movements, and if they had been swooping and swirling, that might have been interesting. Instead the camera just moves erratically, and it instills no tension or fear for the viewer. So lesson learned, don’t make your killer a vegetable.

If you do make that choice though, then don’t write horrible dialog for everyone around him to spout. The one line I want to pick out as being the most atrocious is “Don’t move.” When Susan Penhaligon’s Kathy thinks that Patrick has tried to communicate by spitting (and don’t get me started on that), she goes to get a doctor, but before she does, she looks at him and says, “Don’t move.” So you’re a nurse, he’s been bedridden for three years in which he has never moved a muscle, and you really have to tell him “Don’t move.” This happened within the first thirty minutes of the film, and it really set the tone for the rest of the film. From Kathy to his Doctor, Robert Helpmann acting like the bargin basement Kinski, all the dialog is written so poorly that is painful to watch at times. 

Making the film all the more painful is it’s running time. Two solid hours of a killer who can’t move and you never see committing a crime. Sure he looks plenty freaky lying there, but with bad dialog beset by middling acting, it makes the whole affair seem to go on forever. I usually can watch any film from beginning to end without pause, but I had to take two breaks to make sure I did not nod off. Not that I would have missed much. When it gets down to it, one of the real problems with Patrick is that very little actually happens, and when it does there’s nothing to see. I understand that the original cut of the film ran 2:20, but thankfully it was cut and the other 20 minutes were lost. With thirty of so minutes cut from this film, you may have been able to create some kind of tension. As it was, the film becomes too bogged down in storyline which is both uninteresting and unneeded.

So you see the sign in the picture beside this paragraph. It reads “Emergency Entrance”… or does it. For the vast majority of the film it has partially shorted out and generally just reads “Trance”. They show us that is says trance about 30 times. I’m not sure if this is the real figure because I only started counting after I was completely bored. So, I wonder if that means anything? Nah, surely it’s just a great shot, after all who would need to hammer home that Patrick is killing people with his mind, the film is just named after him and there’s never any other suspects. 

Patrick is a picture perfect example of what I hate in a film, symbolism that you’d have to be in a coma to miss, people being mysteriously killed by camera angles, a killer who is one of the most uninteresting people ever put on film. This film really did just about drive me nuts, and I just can’t recommend it to anyone unless you’re strung out on Valium and won’t really notice anyway. While Franklin would go on to make one of my favorite childhood films (Cloak and Dagger) he also made the extremely suspect Psycho II, so do yourself a favor, save your brain and your mental health from this one. 

Bugg Rating

Plus in honor of Patrick here's a little Ramones for you folks


  1. You need to see the sleazy Italian sequel, Patrick Still Lives. It's a fucking blast. It's like the director got bored filming a sci fi horror, and decided to film cute girls masturbating and sexy gore instead. A must see.

  2. Sexy gore and girls masturbating? I like both of those things. I'm shocked Netflix has Patrick Still Lives, but its on my list now. Thanks for the heads up I didn't even know there was a knockoff.

  3. I've had many chances to see this over the years and have passed--for reasons that you've pointed out here. The overall plot just didn't seem that interesting. As Mr. 666 pointed out, I have heard the sequel is better...or maybe 'more fun' is a better way to put it.

  4. Trust me guys, you both need to see the 'sequel', it is sleazy, gory and has the milf from Burial Ground getting killed in a truly outlandish but memorable way.

  5. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobMay 26, 2009 at 5:59 PM

    susan penhaligon was such a gorgeous bird back in the 70`s and i always liked the way "i wanna be sedated" was used in that episode of "my so-called life" (a.j. langer used to drive me wild). By the way, i thought "psycho 2" was quite a good film.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...