Theme Song: Annoying Synthesizer Concerto #5 by Some Guy Who Sounds Like Falco.
Interesting Dated References: Shock Treatment, Psych Wards.
Best Line: James Coburn to a statue of Jesus on the cross — “Doesn’t he ever … get tired of … ,” then shrugs. James Coburn, to a lover — “I’m not going to work, I called him and told him I had the cruds.”
Social Context: Well, considering the date on this movie, I’m sure it’s addressing the whole, “How can we tell who is really insane?” school of thought during all the psychiatric treatment reform of the late 70s. I’m sure this movie represented a lot of opinions of the day. The writer is clearly taking the stance insanity is a state of mind and that it is wrong for society and doctors to commit people against their will. However, any real shock or power that the message could have carried is destroyed by Coburn’s cheerful acceptance of his self admittance into the ward at the end of the film.
Summary: I just want to clarify that I think James Coburn is a fucking gangster and I am biased toward liking anything he does. I’m not so blind that I can’t recognize that, for example, Snow Dogs was a shitty movie. But I do have a good appreciation for Coburn as a whole. Now that I’ve cleared that up, I give you Mr. Patman, or as it was released on video, Crossover. Now I know that can be a bit confusing, and I probably shouldn’t mention the movie was also released on video in Europe as Shadows of Darkness. The fact remains, this movie ran in theaters as Mr. Patman. Since the Beta sitting in front of me is called Crossover, and this is supposed to be a place where I analyze Beta videos and not movies under their original theatrical run titles, I am going to refer to this movie as Crossover, even though the writer of the script would prefer I didn’t.
Okay, so the movie starts off well enough with Coburn established as the charming and well-liked Mr. Patman, chief of the night shift at some type of psychiatric ward. In the opening moments we are exposed to a variety of patients and we see Patman’s charming way of dealing with each of them, including a naked chick with white face-paint and some type of bad 80s hat. Nothing seems too out of the ordinary, and Patman seems to rather enjoy his job. The first indication anything is wrong is when a patient comes in for shock treatment and Patman raises a stink about how the other doctors aren’t paying attention. After this, we see Patman go talk to his pastor who gives him a muscle relaxant and in exchange the pastor informs Patman that “someday he (Patman) will get his faith back.” This is obviously all setting up the big emotional struggle of the movie.
After Patman arrives home and has extremely loud conversations with his cat, a blaring annoying synth soundtrack lets us know he thinks a guy is following him. Then he gets drunk on rum, puts on a robe, aggressively pets his cat, and then bangs the landlord’s wife while they talk about how she got molested. For real. Already this movie is going pretty awesome.
While on night shift the next day, a patient commits suicide on Patman’s watch. I guess this gets him so upset he bangs his assistant nurse at her place. Once he returns home he hears the bad synth music that makes him think a guy is following him. As an underground electronic musician I’ve heard a lot of bad synthesizer music, but none of it has made me think someone is following me. Sure enough he looks outside and sees a guy looking at him. Then it happens again. This happens a few more times and eventually the nurse’s assistant he is banging asks him to move to California with her. There are a lot of paranoid/premonition things going on here, ala many movies of the era. Patman becomes convinced he sees this same chick assistant die in a car crash, but everyone tells him otherwise. As his paranoia increases, he becomes addicted to the medicine cabinet. Eventually, a patient catches him and informs him of the “other side” of those who are crazy. The patient also indicates he can “turn it on and off.” Now things gets a little sloppy in here with Patman fast losing his grip on reality.
I just noticed Coburn has a really awesome stroll as well. He strolls like a true gangster would. Okay, so after Patman gets fired, he helps an old lady escape from the ward and then travels with her, his cat, and his nurse’s assistant love to California. Along for the ride is some bad synthesizer music. The trip is spoiled when the old lady who Patman helped escape passes away in the car. As a result, the nurse’s assistant returns the body to the hospital and leaves Patman in the street with a commitment to meet her at a certain time so they can leave again. In the meantime, Patman breaks into the morgue and then puts his cat to sleep. The movie closes with Mr. Patman admitting himself to the very same psych ward he was in charge of. When he arrives, he is smiley and gives out a cigar and a pint of what I think was rum. Then the movie is over. Then I’m a little confused, but move right past the confusion into focusing on paying my mortgage and credit card bills. Then I thought for a while about getting drunk tonight. Ask me about mixing vodka with margarita mix.
So Crossover succeeds as a character study, but it fails to build the surrounding story to support said character. What we wind up with is a series of events and dialogue that have no real purpose. An important aspect of a character study is to have a good environment in which for them to exist. Obviously, they started out with something, but forgot everything about 10 minutes into the movie. The writer of Crossover was the same guy who wrote Flashdance and the Rick Springfield vehicle Hard To Hold, as well as the Death Wish-esque Fighting Back that I reviewed, and the bizarre Circle of Two. So there seems to be no real creative force behind the script. Perhaps it was based off a loose paranoia idea in the post-Marathon Man heyday that was the late 70s. Who fucking cares. The guy wrote Flashdance, why bother trying to put any artistic merit behind it.
Poster and Box Art: Because this movie has such a confusing title history, it’s a little hard to properly gauge the artwork. The German movie poster for Mr. Patman is fucking awesome:
I couldn’t find an example of an American version of a Mr. Patman poster, which could either mean I’m lazy or it wasn’t released in the U.S. under that title. All sources indicate it may have only had limited theater runs, so who knows. It seems the majority of people know this movie under the Crossover title. The art for it is Crossover is good enough, showcasing several different scenes from the movies in a nicely illustrated format but it sort of just makes it look like a bad soap opera.
he European box art features illustration as well, but isn’t as strong. Coburn has an awesome face. I’m surprised these illustrators didn’t have more fun with it. I mean they always try to downplay how aged the dudes face is, but you think they’d be all over that.
Availability: Old VHS copies can be found on ebay. Other than that, it seems to be a pretty hard to hold.