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Let's Kill Uncle
Directed by the late, great William Castle and released by Universal Pictures in 1966, Let's Kill Uncle opens with a scene where man named Russell Harrison (played by Castle himself) dies in a car accident. He leaves behind a twelve-year-old son named Barnaby Harrison (Pat Cardi) who, now orphaned, is sent off to an island to start a new life under the watchful eye of his uncle, Major Kevin Harrison (Nigel Green), a former Commando in the British Armed Forces and now the author of a book entitled ‘Killing The Enemy.'
There aren't many other inhabitants on the island, but there is Justine (Linda Lawson), a single woman, and her niece Chrissie (Mary Badham), the later of whom does not get along with Barnaby at all, at least not initially. Things change when Barnaby learns that Kevin intends to kill him so that he can inherit the multi-million dollar fortune left to him by his late father, of course intending to make it look like an accident so that he doesn't wind up in any hot water himself. When Chrissie, who in many ways is Barnaby's opposite in that she doesn't come from money at all, gets word of this she changes her tune and she and Barnaby team up to save Kevin from the Major, who comes up with one devious way to get rid of his nephew after the next. Chrissie in particular realizes that the only way that Barnaby is going to survive this is if he manages to kill Kevin before Kevin kills him, and so, as such, the race is on.
Let's Kill Uncle might not rank up there with Castle classics like The Tingler or The House On Haunted Hill and it is, somewhat refreshingly maybe, entirely devoid of the director's trademark gimmickry, but it's a very entertaining film even if it loses a bit with its rather unusually abrupt finale. More of a thriller with darkly comedic elements than a straight horror picture, the movie is paced well and carries with it a good sense of humor during its brisk ninety-two-minute running time. Nicely shot by cinematographer Harold Lipstein and featuring a reasonably rousing score composed by Herman Stein, the production values here are all that they need to be. Castle does a nice job using the oddball island location as well, working different elements of the environment into the picture (an obvious highlight being the presence of a shark in a pool on the island, but we'll say no more about that to avoid spoilers).
The script, which is written by Mark Rodgers and based on the 1963 novel by author June Skinner (who wrote as Rohan O'Grady), does a fine job of toying with viewer expectations, taking the simple (and, let's face it, overused) idea of young kids in danger and turning that on its head in the second half of the picture.
The performances here aren't half bad at all. Pat Cardi is likeable enough by child actor standards, even if his character is, in many ways, a flat out brat. Cardi has got some charisma that the film definitely benefits from. He and Mary Badham wind up having a pretty interesting chemistry together, they make a good team she and he. Linda Lawson is decent enough in her supporting role here, but Nigel Green as the eccentric uncle in question is undoubtedly the highlight here, he's a blast to watch and really seems to have a great handle on just how seriously or not-seriously he should be playing the part in the first place.
Let's Kill Uncle comes Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, taking up just under 29GBs of space on the 50GB disc. The image is nice and clean, showing a natural amount of film grain but not much at all in terms of actual print damage. Colors look quite good and black levels are pretty decent as well. Detail, depth and texture are all pretty solid and there are no problems with any compression issues, noise reduction or edge enhancement issues.
The only audio option is an English language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, with optional subtitles offered up in English only. The audio is a bit flat in spots but always clean and properly balanced. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion, this sounds just fine.
Extras start off with a commentary track featuring Kat Ellinger and Mike McPadden. It's occasionally a scene specific talk, noting the orchestral score and Castle's cameo in the opening, the Warhol-inspired pop art credits sequence, how the film plays when watching it as an adult rather than a kid, and the performances with an emphasis at times on Green's work in the film. they cover how the picture compares to some of Castle's other works, some of the quirks of the characters that populate the film, how we know the kids will get up to know good very early on, the sets and locations used for the shoot, Castle's inherent understanding of children and how he was able to tie this into his filmmaking, Castle's interactions with the studios throughout his career, how the novel compares to the film, elements of sadism in the film and quite a bit more.
The disc also includes Mr. Castle And Me, which is an interview with actor Pat Cardi that clocks in at just under fifteen-minutes. He talks about how excited he was to audition for a William Castle film, his work as a child actor up until this point in his career, what it was like working with Castle and how he got along with him, describing him as ‘a really wonderful guy.' He also talks about how he got along with Mary Badham and how they hit it off, the impact of a haircut he received when showing up on set, taking direction from Castle, his thoughts on Linda Lawson and quite a bit more.
Aside from that, we two trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection.
Let's Kill Uncle is a pretty amusing mix of dark comedy and thriller tropes with a decent cast and a great performance from Nigel Green. It isn't William Castle's best picture or most memorable effort, but it's a really fun watch and quite entertaining. Kino has done a very nice bringing this to Blu-ray, the movie looks really good and it sounds fine. A few nice extra features are included here as well. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.