What a Carve Up is a 1961 British comedy horror film produced by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman (Blood of the Vampire, Jack the Ripper, The Flesh and the Fiends) and directed by Pat Jackson from a screenplay by Ray Cooney (The Hand, 1960 – he later specialised in highly-successful theatrical sex comedy farces) and Tony Hilton (The Hand, 1960).
The plot was loosely based on the novel The Ghoul by Frank King which had previously been adapted for cinema in 1933. The publicity title – What a Carve Up! – used an exclamation mark for greater emphasis. In the US, it was released by Joseph E. Levine’s Embassy Pictures as No Place Like Homicide.
The film was used extensively within Jonathan Coe‘s satirical 1994 novel What a Carve Up!. The book’s protagonist, Michael Owen, becomes obsessed with the film after first watching it as a young boy. Additionally, the last part of the book follows the plot of the film.
The relatives of Uncle Gabriel are summoned to an old country house on the Yorkshire Moors to hear the reading of his will. They all stay in the mansion overnight, and one by one the guests are murdered. The remaining guests must solve the mystery as to who is committing these murders before they too are killed…
“At one point in No Place Like Homicide, a giggling maniac threatens to feed the rest of the cast to a pack of starving mongrels. ‘Oh, blimey’, smirks one of the victims, ‘we’re going to the dogs’. The rest of the humor in this ostensible British farce is on a similar level. The fact that a film of this degree of vulgarity and ineptitude should have managed a week’s booking at neighborhood theatres throughout Manhattan demonstrates just how acute the motion picture product shortage really is.” The New York Times, 13 September 1962.
“…maintains a jolly air of slightly spooky, Cat and the Canary comic cliché, more than capably performed. When the killer is revealed though, it’s a surprise. If they’d managed to squeeze Terry-Thomas in somewhere, this would be an outright classic. As it is, it comes close.” Jed Raven, The Shrieking Sixties: British Horror Films 1960 – 1969
” …Jackson – a veteran of from the British documentary school – skillfully keeps the movie finely balanced between crazy comedy and horror with witty camera angles and judicious cutting.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
” … 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.” Ken Hanke, Mountain Xpress
“Entertaining British horror comedy featuring batty types in the “old dark house” gathered for the reading of a will.” John Stanley, Creature Features
“The sequence with James and Connor in bed together (quite innocently) is very funny and makes one realise how much times have changed. A supporting cast of familiar faces, including a pre-Goldfinger Shirley Eaton, also make this worth a look. British pop singer Adam Faith makes a cameo appearance as Eaton’s boyfriend.” Gary A. Smith, Uneasy Dreams: The Golden Age of British Horror Films, 1956 – 1976 (McFarland, 2000)
“Spooky house farce, allegedly a remake of The Ghoul but bearing little resemblance to it.” Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell’s Film Guide
“Mild British farce, not much different from a Carry On, though The Old Dark House it ain’t.” Howard Maxford, The A-Z of Horror Films
Ernest: “I regard that as low class humour, Sidney.”
- Sidney James … Sid Butler who acts as Ernest’s legal advisor
- Kenneth Connor … Ernest Broughton; Sid’s best friend and who is attracted to Miss Dixon
- Shirley Eaton … Linda Dixon, a pretty nurse who likes Ernie
- Dennis Price … Guy Broughton. He is Ernie’s cousin and a heavy drinker
- Donald Pleasence … Everett Sloane – The zombie-like solicitor
- Esma Cannon … Emily Broughton, a mad lady who believes World War I is still on
- Valerie Taylor … Janet Broughton – Guy’s grasping and hated sister
- Michael Gwynn … Malcolm Broughton, a piano player who says everyone is “Quite mad!”
- George Woodbridge … Dr Edward Broughton who is the father of Janet and Guy
- Michael Gough … Fisk, a creepy butler
- Frederick Piper … the hearse driver
- Timothy Bateson … the porter
- Adam Faith in an uncredited role as himself
Taplow Court, Buckinghamshire (also used for Night of the Eagle)
Image credits: Island of Terror