Until Uncle Kevin (Nigel Green) arrives at 32 minutes into Let’s Kill Uncle (1966), I was having an excruciatingly hard time getting into the movie. After that, I was having a great time! That is, until the ending, which was a letdown. So, as you can tell, it’s a very uneven film. It’s one I probably wouldn’t recommend, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have parts you might enjoy.
Sgt. Frank Travis (Robert Pickering) escorts young Barnaby Harrison (Pat Cardi) to a remote island to live with his uncle when his father (cameo by director William Castle) dies in a car accident. At the same time, young Chrissie (Mary Badham) travels on the same ship to visit her aunt, Justine (Linda Lawson.)
The two kids become sort-of friends on the ship, but are at each other’s throats for most of the first 30 minutes, which is why Let’s Kill Uncle was not entertaining me. Some of the first words out of Chrissie’s mouth accuse Barnaby of being a liar, a childhood trait around which it’s soon apparent the plot will revolve.
That’s because nobody believes Barnaby that Uncle Kevin is trying to kill him so he can inherit five million dollars… nobody except Chrissie. From the moment she utters the words, “Let’s kill uncle first,” the children try to beat their elder at his own game with poison mushrooms, tarantulas, and airplane sabotage.
But Uncle Kevin, in addition to being a WWII hero, is also a master hypnotist. He twirls a golden medallion in front of Barnaby and compels him to do careless stunts such as teeter on the edge of a cliff or stand on the edge of a shark-infested swimming pool. When he’s not distracted by a blossoming romance with Justine, Frank senses that Barnaby might be telling the truth.
Hijinks don’t necessarily ensue. Let’s Kill Uncle restrains from slapstick and relies on Nigel Green to provide the laughs with his more sophisticated sense of humor. Pat Cardi even grew on me after the first 30 minutes. Maybe his non-stop blathering didn’t annoy me as much as his energy just made me jealous.
It’s all preposterous, of course, but a dilapidated hotel with a sign that reads, “Do Not Enter,” practically welcoming the children to enter, provides some good thrills and chills. Just like the potentially deadly game Uncle Kevin is playing with Barnaby and Chrissie, Let’s Kill Uncle is ultimately harmless.
Written by Mark Rodgers
From the novel by Rohan O’Grady
Directed by William Castle
Starring Nigel Green, Mary Badham, Pat Cardi, Robert Pickering, Linda Lawson, Ref Sanchez
RT 92 min.
Released Nov. 18, 1966 (New York City)
Home Video Kino Lorber (Blu-ray)