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Entry updated 14 February 2022. Tagged: Film.

Australian film (1978). AIFC/Antony I Ginnane/Filmways Australasia. Directed by Richard Franklin. Produced by Franklin and Antony I Ginnane. Executive producer William Fayman. Written by Everett de Roche. Special effects by Conrad C Rothmann. Cast includes Bruce Barry, Julia Blake, Robert Helpmann, Helen Hemingway, Rod Mullinar, Susan Penhaligon and Robert Thompson. 115 minutes. Colour.

Patrick (Thompson) lies in a coma in the seedy private hospital owned by Dr Roget (Helpmann). The new nurse Kathy Jacquard (Penhaligon), separated from husband Ed Jacquard (Mullinar) and working under Matron Cassidy (Blake), is given the task of supervising the seeming human vegetable. Roget explains loosely that Patrick is being kept alive for the study of the grey area between life and death. But Kathy finds that Patrick can communicate both through plosives and via the typewriter, which he can to some extent manipulate through psychokinesis (see Psi Powers; Telekinesis). Soon it becomes clear that he is sexually obsessed by her, identifying her with his mother (whom he murdered): frightening accidents, some fatal, occur despite attempts to kill Patrick. At last Kathy confronts him and he agrees to die if she will die with him. Under his mental control, she almost does so before Ed saves her.

Patrick is a cult film much disliked by mainstream critics, and certainly it has plotting, cinematographic and other flaws; Helpmann's hamming is embarrassing. But the production has many strengths, not least the powerful image of the staring-eyed Patrick; and the script leaves us in doubt until satisfyingly late as to whether or not the element of Fantastika is all going to be rationalized [see Rationalized Fantasy in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] as the product of Kathy's own emotionally perplexed state of mind.

Although the novel Tetrasomy Two (1974) by Oscar Rossiter is nowhere credited, the similarity of situation and theme seems hardly coincidental. [JGr/DRL]


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