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Carry Me Back (1982)

Two brothers take their father into the city for the weekend for a rugby game and a night on the town. However, the old man dies in their hotel and the boys need to smuggle his body back to... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Grant Tilly ...
Arthur Donovan
Jimmy Donovan
Dorothy McKegg ...
Aunty Bird
Derek Hardwick ...
Tom 'T.K.' Donovan
Joanne Mildenhall ...
Girl (as Joanne Mildehall)
Alex Trousdel ...
Frank Edwards ...
Brian MacAlister
Michael Haigh ...
John Anderson ...
Fiona Samuel ...
Motel housemaid
Peter Tait ...
Ian Dredge ...
Takeaway Proprietor
Alex Aitchison ...
Pommy Steward


Two brothers take their father into the city for the weekend for a rugby game and a night on the town. However, the old man dies in their hotel and the boys need to smuggle his body back to their farm and make it appear that he died there to satisfy a clause in his will or else they won't inherit the property. Written by Rick Hudson <rick@actrix.gen.nz>

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corpse | independent film | See All (2) »


Dad's dead weight. And they're both dead tired. But they'll both be dead broke. Unless they can carry him back.







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September 2009 (Germany)  »

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Featured in Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill (1995) See more »

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Tom's a-cold; or, dead dad Donovan didn't duly die.
28 February 2005 | by See all my reviews

'Carry Me Back' was a big hit in its native New Zealand, and is a hardy perennial on British television. The U.S. rights were bought by Lorimar, and it's a shame that Stateside distribution has been handled poorly. If Lorimar had put a bit of effort into marketing this movie, they could have had a hit of 'Crocodile Dundee' proportions. 'Carry Me Back' is a comedy -- funny, but not hilarious -- with an unusual road-trip story that also offers a splendid visual travelogue of New Zealand, as the main characters (two living, one dead) attempt to get home while travelling the length of Kiwi Land.

The Donovan brothers -- elder responsible Arthur, younger gormless Jimmy -- work for their widowed father Tom on his remote farm on New Zealand's South Island. It's a sort of 'Steptoe and Sons' arrangement, with the lads exploited as unpaid labourers by their father while they dream of better things. Their only comfort is the knowledge that they'll inherit the farm when their hard-living elderly father carks it, which ought to be any minute now.

SPOILERS COMING. The lads' favourite rugger team are playing an away on the North Island, and the lads are looking forward to a weekend away from their father and the farm so they can see the match. But their father -- who hasn't set foot off the farm, literally in years -- suddenly decides to tag along. The match goes well (their team win), and the brothers get to chat up a couple of dolly-birds. As they return to their hotel room, their elderly dad goes to bed smiling. He's still smiling the next morning when they find him, stone dead.

Now comes the plot contrivance. Tom Donovan's will leaves his farm to his sons, but only providing he's buried *on* his farm. If this condition is not met, the farm goes to the local council. But, under New Zealand law (this is a genuine law; I checked), Tom Donovan can only be buried on his land if he *died* on his land. If he dies elsewhere, he must be interred in a cemetery, or cremated.

So, now the lads conspire to make it look as if their dad died at home. But in order to pull it off, they must smuggle their dead dad all the way across New Zealand (including a trip aboard the public ferry which links the two main islands) without anyone twigging that he's dead. They nail him in a crate and disguise him as cargo.

From here, the movie gets increasingly contrived. The lads enlist the aid of their Auntie Bird: their dead mother's sister, who always despised Tom. It makes little sense for her to help them, but she does. Even more implausibly, Auntie Bird is dating an escaped criminal, who is attempting to get past a police checkpoint by (wait for it) shipping himself cross-country disguised in a crate. So, that's two different bodies (one living, one dead) hidden in moving crates. Guess what happens.

The great merits of 'Carry Me Back' are the breathtaking views of New Zealand's scenery, and some fine vignettes of the working-class people. The scenes on the Donovan farm are well-photographed. The end of the film is quite suspenseful, as Jimmy tries to sidetrack some unexpected visitors on their father's farm while Arthur makes a last desperate effort to get Tom's corpse home. Most of this movie is only moderately funny, but the climactic gag -- the fake death that Arthur contrives for his father's corpse -- is well and truly hilarious. I'll rate this movie 7 out of 10, and it deserves to be better known in America.

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