Starring: Martha Logan, William Kerwin, Harvey Korman
Trivia: It was this short that inspired producer David F. Friedman to cast William Kerwin and Harvey Korman in 1961's Living Venus
Educational shorts, sometimes referred to as PSA’s (Public Service Announcements), have been around for decades, covering such diverse topics as personal hygiene (How To Be Well Groomed, 1949), teen drug addiction (The Terrible Truth, 1951), and keeping safe in case of a nuclear attack (Duck and Cover, 1952). Nowadays, many of these early short films seem naïve (Duck and Cover honestly believed crouching in the fetal position would save you during a nuclear strike), and some are flat-out hilarious (I used to love it when Mystery Science Theater 3000 would lampoon an early educational short; one episode in particular, where Joel and the ‘bots picked apart a ‘50s PSA that told you how to behave at the dinner table, makes me laugh just thinking about it). But every now and again one comes along that, even all these years later, offers some solid advice. Such is the case with 1959’s Carving Magic.
A PSA the teaches the finer points of cutting meat, Carving Magic was released as a special feature on the DVD of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast (mostly because the short featured William Kerwin, who starred in that film). Also notable for marking the screen debut of actor Harvey Korman (Blazing Saddles, History of the World Part 1), Carving Magic kicks off with two couples at a dinner party. Joe (Kerwin), the host, is preparing to carve the turkey, much to the surprise of his guest, Al (Korman), who teases Joe about the last time he tried doing so (apparently, he made a mess of it). But Joe has learned a thing or two about carving since then thanks to Martha Logan (appearing as herself), credited as a “Home Economist” with Swift and Company (the organization that produced this short). After a few tips from Ms. Logan, Joe has become an expert with a knife, cutting everything from legs of lamb to steaks as if he were a professional chef.
Thanks to Kerwin and Korman, Carving Magic features better acting than most PSA’s, yet what really caught my attention when I first watched this short was how delicious the meat dishes looked. The turkey that Kerwin’s character slices up is pretty darn good, but I was especially impressed with the steaks, which, after they were cooked, had my mouth watering. In addition to its delectable main courses, Carving Magic provides some great pointers for the novice meat cutter (I actually used a few of Martha Logan’s suggestions this past Christmas when I carved up the turkey, and they worked like a charm).
Vegetarians will probably feel nauseous watching Carving Magic, but if you’re a carnivore like me, this one will have you craving a steak dinner inside of 10 minutes.