AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 82 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
The animosity betwen two rival undertakers initially appears to be ended when Basil Bulstrode, Emmanuel Holroyd and Percy accidently kill their nemesis Grimthope and have to bury him. However, Grimthorpe’s funeral parlour then reopens as a high-tech Haven of Rest which soon leaves Fraser and co. with no business until a rich, high profile client needs to be collected from the train station. However, this Haven is really a cover for hash smuggling, and a mix up with two coffins, one of which does not contain a dead body, resurrects the war between the two parlours….
I’m surprised that Hammer decided to make That’s Your Funeral, as the TV series upon which it’s based only ran for seven episides, and the film unsurprisingly flopped too. Distributors Rank called it “distasteful” and only released it reluctantly. I must say I was kind of dreading watching it myself, as I’ve been to rather too many funerals of late, some being of close loved ones. Some of the gallows humour does die a death, but I was soon chuckling along at much of it, full of puns and lines like, “Don’t stand there like a bad case of pallbearer’s palsy” or, when four are running as they carry a coffin through a graveyard, “If they keep it up much longer there’s no point in them going home”. I doubt that many viewers today would be offended, except for maybe a couple of dated references to Pakistanis and Chinese. The humour stops short of becoming sick or cruel, and apart from some comic hearse chases is quite restrained by modern standards, the whole thing almost having the feel of an Ealing comedy [Alec Guinness totally belongs in this film]. The black humour even spilled over into the film’s production when the un-credited person playing a dead body died halfway through. Co-producer Roy Skeggs rang his family and asked if the deceased guy could finish for half his fee. In a nice touch, Skeggs, director John Robins, writer Peter Lewis and some other members of the crew all appear as attendees of a funeral during the opening credits with their names beside them.
An early set piece when Percy pretends to be a freshly dead corpse while Fraser snoops around the Haven of Rest is very gigglesome, though it seems to build to a climax which doesn’t take place. The plot soon hinges on the coffin mix-up, and, while you can predict some of the developments, I totally lost track at one point with all the swapping around. Considering that this was originally a ‘A’ certificate which is equivalent to ‘PG’, I was most surprised to see a lengthy section where nearly everyone gets stoned [though why nobody realises what they’re smoking is odd] and starts acting extremely silly. The BBFC’s website says that the film was originally cut but they’d have had to have cut over ten minutes to remove this material. Bill Fraser, Raymond Huntley and the sole young leading character David Battley have a fine chemistry between them, and there are good roles for Dennis Price and Roy Kinnear as somewhat over-proud and enthusiastic morticians, plus Michael Ripper, in his final role for Hammer, stealing his two scenes as a railway station attendant going on about maggots. Oddly charming and even a bit whimsical, That’s Your Funeral is quite a pleasing little comedy despite its subject matter not generally being considered one to laugh at.