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Mark Hartley’s heart was truly in the new making of Patrick; the film was the first VHS tape he ever bought as a kid (over 36 years ago), he tells Andrew L. Urban.

Mark Hartley’s favourite living screen composer, Pino Donaggio, was impossible to find, just when Hartley actually needed him to write the score for the ‘re-imagined’ gothic chiller, Patrick. “I temped the film with Donaggio and Jerry Goldsmith,” he says [temping = using temporary music to approximate what will be required].

Hartley started tracking him through a music distributor who had released some of Donaggio’s work, and got onto “the only connection between Donaggio and the English speaking world,” who in turn connected the two. 

"a pleasantly surprising response"

When Hartley then sent Donaggio a rough cut of the film, he received a pleasantly surprising response. “He said Patrick reminded him of Carrie! And yes, he’d love to write the music.” Donaggio’s compliment wasn’t groundless, since he had scored Carrie himself. He also wrote the score for Don’t Look Now, one of the creepiest movies ever made, and for Dressed To Kill.

What if he hadn’t been able to find Donaggio or to convince him to write the music? “I’d have had to get someone to do a Donaggio knock off,” he laughs.

Venice based Donaggio recorded the score with one of his favourites, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and it was mixed in Rome. Hartley is a happy man.

The 1978 movie, written by Everett De Roche and directed by Richard Franklin, was produced by Antony I. Ginnane – who also produced this, the 2013 film. He recalls: “The film 1978 had a budget of AUD $325,000 and at Cannes we wrote US$ 500,000 in sales over 32 territories. It was the first Australian film of the new wave to be released theatrically in Germany; the first to play theatrically in all Latin American territories and it achieved the highest license fee obtained to date for an Australian film in Canada and South East Asia. Given my view that an industrial cinema could stand alongside the art house cinema that the Australian renaissance had initially been known for, we more than proved our point.”

"involved at every step"

When Justin King (who had worked with Hartley researching for Not Quite Hollywood) approached Ginnane with the proposal to make a new version of Patrick, Ginnane agreed. “He was involved at every step, but he never interfered,” says Hartley. “He was supportive all the way, down to my final cut.”

Patrick was the first ex-rental VHS tape Hartley bought as a kid. “I absolutely loved the film, and while in high school, I discovered that the film’s director, Richard Franklin, had attended my school. I invited him back to speak - and began a friendship with Richard that continued until his untimely death in 2007. Just weeks earlier, racked with intense pain, he bravely partook in an interview for my feature documentary Not Quite Hollywood.”

While retaining the story and some key elements, the main difference between the two films, says Hartley, is the stronger atmosphere of this new version, less brightly lit, and different performances, pushing the characters into darker areas. 

After the mysterious disappearance of a nurse, Kathy (Sharni Vinson) takes up the vacant role at 'Roget Clinic', a private hospital for the clinically comatose in a remote seaside town. Kathy is placed under the imperious watch of Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths) and Dr. Sebastian Roget (Charles Dance) a renegade neurologist operating at the fringes of medicine. Despite her strong sense of foreboding and the dismal working conditions, Kathy overlooks the eeriness of the ward and the disturbing patients. She is fascinated by a mysterious patient, who is simply known as Patrick (Jackson Gallagher). It soon becomes apparent that Patrick has telekinetic powers and his affections for Kathy turn into a deadly and bloody obsession, letting no one get in his way.

"more austere"

In the 1978 version, the Roget Clinic was in the city; now it’s in a remote location, isolated, more austere. Matron Cassidy is more brittle and “Charles Dance is channelling Peter Cushing as Dr Roget,” as Hartley sees it.

“I am a firm believer that “old school is good school” - so, during production I tried to surround myself with many long time collaborators (including cinematographer Garry Richards and production designer Robbie Perkins) and as many film veterans as possible. Even some of the original film’s cast members and crew returned – and Aussie daredevil extraordinaire (and Roadgames villain) Grant Page took care of all the stunt work.”

Tellingly, Hartley says: “I should boast that our Patrick does not contain a solitary hand-held shot - indeed, it stands proudly as a throwback – striving to evoke a classical era of evocative thrillers.”

Published October 24, 2013

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