Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mario Landi's Patrick Still Lives (1980)

So many awful, wonderful and sublime Italian films were born shortly after their higher-budget, legitimate cinematic brothers and sisters. Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) left in its bloody wake, not only the bodies of swimmers, but numerous excellent exploitation films from Italy: Enzo G. Castellari's The Last Shark (1981), Lamberto Bava's Monster Shark (1984), Joe D'Amato's Deep Blood (1989), and Bruno Mattei's masterful Cruel Jaws (1995). William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973) vomited up its own terribly delicious Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) by John Boorman; but across the pond, Italians delivered Alberto De Martino's The Antichrist (1974), Franco Lo Cascio and Angelo Pannacciò's Cries and Shadows (1975), and Andrea Bianchi's Malabimba (1979). The Italian subsequent features were stripped-down versions of their originals: big shark, littler boat, and more blood and the possessed with an upped ante of profanity, sexuality, and murder. The Jaws and Exorcist rip-of...er...homages are just examples of some of my favorite Italian sub-genres. I recently had the pleasure of viewing an in-name sequel to Australian Richard Franklin's Patrick (1978) by Mario Landi entitled Patrick Still Lives (1980).
Richard Frankin's Patrick (1978) is a wonderful oddity of cinema about a comatose psychokinetic patient causing havoc in his local hospital. Susan Penhaligon delivered an excellent performance as Patrick's nurse. Penhaligon carries the film, while the character Patrick never speaks a word. Patrick delivers odd scares and unique set-ups. I think Patrick is mesmerizing. However, Patrick doesn't scream universal appeal or box-office bang: it's quiet, odd, and quite bizarre. Nonetheless, Mario Landi's genre follow-up to his nasty Giallo a Venezia (1979) was made. Patrick Still Lives is a split-personality film: half slow and brooding a la Patrick and half super-sleazy gore and nastiness. Patrick (Gianni Dei) and his father, Professor Herschell (Sacha Pitoeff) are stranded on the side of the road, with the hood up on their vehicle. As Patrick looks up, a passing truck drives by and its driver tosses a bottle out the window. The bottle connects with Patrick's head, and under a minute of screen time, Patrick becomes a vegetative comatose patient. The Professor moves his son to a remote villa, where in its basement Patrick is bed ridden. Patrick is connected, mad-scientist style, to three other bed-ridden patients via an energy machine, so Patrick has the ability to fuel his psychokinetic powers. The villa also serves as a health resort, because guests are arriving. Voluptuous beauty Stella (Mariangela Giordano) arrives with Peter (John Benedy), a couple in the waning days of their relationship (separate rooms to boot). Politician Lyndon Kraft (Franco Silva) arrives with sexy younger wife, Cheryl (Carmen Russo). Good-looking hunk, David (Paolo Giusti) arrives later and encounters enigmatic Meg (Anna Veneziano) who works at the villa, mostly taking care of two ominous German Shepards. Finally, beautiful blonde Lydia Grant (Andrea Belfiore) runs the villa as the doctor's assistant. The first forty-five minutes or so of Patrick Still Lives treats the viewer to a slow (and mostly boring) insight into unnecessary character exposition and plot lines: there's all this freaky wind blowing through the trees; Meg's telling David to run far from the villa; someone's blackmailing Lyndon and that's why he's at the resort; Cheryl's overstimulated; Lydia is a good worker but she's not allowed in the basement; and Stella and Peter make idle chit-chat. The film feels more like its stalling than setting the viewer up. Landi attempts to channel the atmospheric slow build-up of Franklin's Patrick, by dropping subtle psychokinetic flourishes, such as objects moving around and the various "wind" that builds up and plagues poor Lydia. Landi does not have the patience or the cinematic talent to pull off the tone. I believe that it's more the former that Landi lacks, as the final half of the film is full on straight-up sleaze, no chaser.After the first well-orchestrated yet bloodless murder in a swimming pool, the first scene to grab the viewer is of Stella busting through the door, drunk, donning an open gown with only her panties on, to disrupt dinner. Landi leaves his camera stationary on his tripod and just lets Giordiano let it all hang out: she berates all of the characters and gets into a nasty cat fight with Cheryl on the floor. Giordiano's character makes a one-hundred and eighty degree turn: Stella becomes an aggressive seductress and indulgent drunk. In one scene, she makes her best attempts to seduce David, which ends with both characters repeatedly slapping each other. Stella's wardrobe becomes thin see-through nightgowns or no wardrobe whatsoever. Her death scene, to put it mildly, is completely offensive, gory, and repellent. In fact, all the ladies in Landi's film pretty much favor their birthday suits for the final half and gruesome gory kills become the norm. Sweet Lydia, who appeared initially as a diligent and quiet assistant to the Professor, becomes the sexual desire of Patrick. He summons her from his bed with his mind powers to have Lydia undress and pole dance for him around his bed. Lydia puts on quite the peepshow for not just Patrick but for any aroused viewer. Not much substantive dialogue happens; the would-be sub-plots of the first half fall away, as if they didn't even exist. This half of Patrick Still Lives is most reminiscent of Giallo a Venezia, and this is Landi I know. The first half feels like an Ed Wood cast-off: cheap lighting, poor framing and pacing, and very bad acting (all of which I really love, by the way). By the end of the film, the whole mystery is revealed behind the motives for the murders and it really doesn't matter. Landi's film is a sleazy, exploitive, and offensive film made in the shadow of Richard Franklin's Patrick. Who would have thought that I never saw that one coming?

1 comment:

Mr.LargePackage said...

It sounds like the whole second half of this film is large and in charge.