Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Australian movie (1978). AIFC/Antony I Ginnane/Filmways Australasia. Pr Richard Franklin, Antony I Ginnane. Exec pr William Fayman. Dir Franklin. Spfx Conrad C Rothmann. Screenplay Everett de Roche. Starring Bruce Barry (Brian Wright), Julia Blake (Matron Cassidy), Robert Helpmann (Dr Roget), Helen Hemingway (Paula Williams), Rod Mullinar (Ed Jacquard), Susan Penhaligon (Kathy Jacquard), Robert Thompson (Patrick). 115 mins. Colour.

Patrick lies in a coma in the seedy private hospital owned by Dr Roget. New nurse Kathy, separated from husband Ed, is given the task of supervising the 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 Patrick can communicate both through plosives and via the typewriter, which he can limitedly manipulate through psychokinesis (see Talents). Soon it is clear 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; he agrees to die if she will die with him. Under his mental control, she almost does so before Ed saves her.

P is a cult movie much disliked by mainstream critics, and certainly it has plotting, cinematographic and other flaws; Helpmann's hamming is embarrassing. But P 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 this is all going to be rationalized (see Rationalized Fantasy) as the product of Kathy's own emotionally perplexed mind. Although the novel Tetrasomy Two (1974) by Oscar Rossiter (real name Vernon H Skeels; 1918-2007) is nowhere credited, the similarity of situation and theme seems hardly coincidence. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.