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What A Carve Up!


‘…an unassuming dolts-in-a-haunted house programmer from 1961… (yet) a genuine cult item against all odds.’

Not to be confused with last week’s critical darling What A Whopper!, despite the presence of that same films dynamic duo Sid James and Adam Faith, What a Carve Up! is a very British film is a curious pedigree. While it’s an unassuming dolts-in-a-haunted house programmer from 1963, What A Carve Up! has become a genuine cult item against all odds. Regularly shown on the Talking Pictures channel, Pat Jackson’s film was the subject of a Jonathan Coe novel also called What A Carve Up! which was about a man obsessed with viewing the film What a Carve Up!, and also as a play of the same title. That play of the novel inspired by the film first premiered in 2020, which was also called What A Carve Up!, and starred Stephen Fry.

If you’re a fan of Tim Burton, John Carpenter or the Bond films, there’s strong links here; Michael Gough went on to butler for Michael Keaton’s Batman, Donald Pleasence gets his Sam Loomis on well before Halloween, and Shirley Eaton warms up for Goldfinger; it’s notable not only as early work for these stars, but that they’re playing the kind of characters that they stuck with for all their careers. Pleasance plays a creepy lawyer who summers up our protagonists (Sid James and Kenneth Connor) to a stately home where a will is about to be read; we’re talking about eyes moving behind paintings-type whodunnit? shenanigans, with Gough’s butler hanging around in the shadows. Dennis Price is amongst the posho family keen to gip the boys out of their potential inheritance, but with a mad killer on the loose, finance is the least of their worries.

Saddled with a dull title in the States (No Place Like Homicide), What A Carve Up! hasn’t made much impression abroad, but it’s a sleeper success that nails down a few truths about the class system. There’s no actual horror here, despite being adapted from a play called The Ghoul, but there is cult appeal in a story which aims to lay bare the grasping nature of UK life in comical fashion. And as a snapshot of some break-out actors just on the cusp of international stardom, it’s quite a bit of fun for cineastes. The 2008 DVD is a snip at just £73.


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  1. I just love how old dvd prices on amazon get like this. No one is going to buy it so the sellers might as well just toss it in the garbage for all the good it’s going to do.

    As for the movie itself. I like “dolts in a house” usually. As long as the whole theme is funny and not just stupid. Half the time I can’t even blame the movie, as that kind of humor changes from person to person and what I think is funny some lep denier is going to think is stupid, and vice versa.

  2. I got confused in that first paragraph. There was a film of a novel, then a play of the film, then another film about the play?? And they’re all called What A Carve Up? Anyway £73 gives me Nopefever!

    • There’s an original black and white version kicking around too if you look, obviously as a precursor to blowing £73 on a DVD. Oh, interesting that you’ve read the book, I’m planning to do the same, what’s the novel like?

        • It is, but if you’ve got a DVD of last week’s What A Whopper!, you can trade that in to get £50 off this one….Coe then write another book dealing with What A Whopper, if that helps…

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