One of the defining features of the Italian popular cinema of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s was the filone or tributary approach: Take a successful film, or one that you expected to be successful, and produce an unofficial sequel, remake or reinterpretation hopefully close enough to the original to fool audiences whilst sufficiently different to avoid legal issues.
As its title suggests Patrick Still Lives / Patrick vive ancora is a classic example of the filone principle in action, its specific inspiration being Richard Franklin’s Australian production Patrick.
For those unfamiliar with the original it’s the story of a man named Patrick who is 1) in a coma, 2) has telekinetic powers, and 3) uses these to force his nurse to love him and 4) kill anybody else who gets in his way of his schemes.
Although not a big hit internationally, it must have presumably been a success in Italy; certainly the Italian distributors found it worthwhile enough to replace the original soundtrack with one by Argento associates and soundtrack specialists Goblin.
Director Mario Landi, writer Piero Regnoli and producer Gabriele Crisanti’s film cannot really be considered a sequel to Patrick, however. For English and Italian titles aside, it doesn’t follow on from Franklin’s film but rather takes the first three core elements from Patrick; adds a revenge plot justification to the fourth by way of Ten Little Indians.
Above all, it also ups the sleaze and splatter to levels that are extreme even by the standards of Italian exploitation, if also consistent with such other Crisanti productions as Giallo a venezia and Zombie Nights of Terror / Zombie 3.
Patrick vive ancora begins with Patrick (Gianni Dei) and his father Professor Herschell (Sacha Pitoeff) stuck in the middle of nowhere, their car having broken down. Patrick tries to flag down a passing vehicle for assistance, and gets a bottle in the face for his troubles.
We then cut to an operating theatre as a surgeon operates to save his Patrick’s life. He succeeds after a fashion – Patrick (still) lives (again), but in a comatose state.
Although it is never explained exactly how, Patrick then develops telekinetic powers, further fuelled by some of the other patients Professor Herschell has taken on at his private clinic, the interior and grounds of which should prove familiar to any student of Italian trash and which also feature prominently in Zombie 3.
During this time, the professor has also discovered the identities of six possible bottle throwers, whom he has now invited to spend a few days at the clinic in order that he and his son may extract their revenge...
For now, however, the filmmakers wisely allow for a spot of character development, in order that we know the guests are all hateful bourgeois figures who deserve to die in nasty ways – even if at least five of them are innocent in Patrick’s specific case.
This also affords them the opportunity to have the female cast members parade around in states of nakedness or threw something on and nearly missed-ness, and for everybody to down copious quantities of J&B and bitch at one another.
The obligatory catfight and one of a number of J&B bottles
The first to die is the improbably named Mr Cough, a politician. Going for a night swim, he is boiled alive by Patrick. Cough’s J&B consumption then becomes relevant, as Professor Herschell (Sacha Pitoeff) explains away Cough’s death as having been brought on by his alcoholism; the other guests seem to accept this.
Caused by drinking, apparently.
There’s a certain irony here in that, according to Argento, who worked with Pitoeff on Inferno, the actor was himself something of a drunk at this point in his life and career; brave souls may wish to suggest a double-bill of Patrick vive ancora and Last Year at Marienbad to Pitoeff fans.
Next up is Mr Davis, who gets a hook through his neck as he is hung up over a well.
Davis is soon discovered by Stella Randolph (Mariangela Giordano – Crisanti’s wife and a regular in his films). She flees in terror to the kitchens, where she finds a flayed cat in the fridge (a nice inversion of Giallo a Venezia, where Giordano’s character’s torso was left in a fridge for her cleaner to find) and is then menaced and killed by a long poker which, well, pokes her through the vagina and exits out her mouth.
The flayed cat
The reaction shot
An understandable response to being penetrated by a poker
Another reaction shot
But while the sex-violence-sleaze interface is a constant in Crisanti’s productions, it seems more determined by shock value than anything else; certainly the ridiculousness of the special effects here creates a markedly different impression than the rather more plausible looking impaled woman in Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust.
Professor Herschell informs the other guests that the police have been called and that they will have to stay at the villa until the authorities arrive.
Next we get another bit of character and plot development as Patrick uses his powers to force secretary Lidya to strip and masturbate for him.
This is character and plot development in that it later transpires that Lidya is amongst the suspected bottle throwers, and that her fate is a source of potential conflict between Patrick and his father. Not, of course, that you can expect any exchanges of dialogue between them over this...
Lydia and Patrick, and the purple and green
Before we get to the denouement, however, there are still other suspects for Patrick to remorselessly, relentlessly dispose of: One woman is guillotined by her car windows, while another (again servant rather than a guest) has her throat torn out by her Alsatians.
The hint of a connection to Argento’s Inferno and Suspiria is further reinforced by the neo-expressionist purple and green lighting that signify Patrick’s presence and power within his own chamber and the set-pieces. This is, however, about the only evidence of directorial flair in the film, which is otherwise efficiently and functionally – read cheaply – put together.
Curiously, however, we don’t see what happens to the man who discovers the woman’s severed head.
Does he live or die? Or was he never a suspect, which is possible given that by now we’ve got more potential bottle throwers than we need? Or did the filmmakers just run out of budget and/or ideas as far as presenting another imaginatively gory demise?
Certainly there is a sense of anti-climax to what follows, particularly given that we still don’t know who in fact threw that fateful bottle...