Under its American title, No Place Like Homicide!, Pat Jackson’s What a Carve up! (1961) used to be a staple of U.S. television in those days before Hollywood completely opened its vaults to the interloping TV medium. I confess I have a soft spot for this silly movie, based on seeing it as a child of six or seven, which is probably just the right age to really appreciate it. Even so, when it became available through a British DVD company, I snatched it up at once. I can’t say it exactly lived up to my early memories of it, but it’s still a good bit of goofy fun, even if some of its gags are probably lost on most American viewers. Its final gag, for instance, is predicated on the audience recognizing unbilled pop star Adam Faith. That was unlikely in 1961 America, and the odds have decreased considerably 50-plus years later. Fans of the “Carry On” films will certainly recognize Sid James and Kenneth Connor as the dim-witted duo out to collect an inheritance, while most film fans will recognize Donald Pleasence as a creepy lawyer and Michael Gough as a sinister Lurch-like butler. And leading lady Shirley Eaton is best known for being the gold-painted girl of Goldfinger fame.
The film’s genesis is confusing to say the least. It’s based on a play by Frank King called The Ghoul, which itself is similar to, but not the same as Frank King’s novel called, well, The Ghoul. So this is only sort of a version of the 1933 film of The Ghoul, which was taken from the novel. The play has a not dissimilar plot, but is very much in the mold of the old dark house thriller — without any supernatural trappings — and that’s what What a Carve Up! is — albeit refitted to the comedic talents of James and Connor. Is it a great example of the horror film? Oh, my, no. But it’s amusing nonsense with more than a few nice touches — amidst a lot of very broad humor that will doubtless be a matter of taste. You wouldn’t want a steady diet of this sort of thing, but it’s fun on occasion.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen What a Carve Up! Thursday, Jan. 30, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.