Series Link 02.24.10: Death of the Carry On
Series Link #19: Carry On the 1970s
Some of these are really quite awful
Frequently when reviewing movies I notice I’m missing sequels here and there from classic series. In line with one of my key film watching beliefs I’ll be making a point of tidying up some of my sequel history. The belief in question being that as long as I enjoyed the original I’ll watch any sequel made of it. I don’t know where this belief came from but it’s one that seems to work out for me quite frequently and there are many film series where I have enjoyed multiple sequels based on my love and respect for the initial instalment (Alien, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Rocky etc).
Don’t forget if you’re on Twitter you can get regular tweets from 411. I’m on there too as “ArnoldFurious” although I’ve not quite gotten the hang of updating it. After all, who really cares what I’m doing on a Thursday morning?
For this nineteenth Series Link I thought I’d continue my look at the Carry On films. In two previous instalments Early Carry On films and Classic Carry On films I took a look at the earlier Carry On features. As the series went into the 1970s the UK public was able to access a bawdier style of picture so Barbara Windsor in a bikini wasn’t really the most thrilling thing available anymore. UK soft porn became commonplace by the mid-70s and the “Confessions of” series came out as a more graphic version of the Carry On films. Don’t expect a Series Link on the Confessions movies anytime soon; they’re all quite dreadful.
Series Link #19
Early 70s Carry On Films.
How many films?
1970-1974. Eight films fired out in quick succession at the start of the 70s before Carry On hit the inevitable decline with writer Talbot Rothwell leaving the series in 1974.
Carry on Up the Jungle (1970)
Several absent regulars return for 1970’s Jungle. Kenneth Connor and Frankie Howerd both appear. Connor had been gone since 1964 and this film re-kindled his interest in the series. Howerd returned because Kenneth Williams was unavailable to play the main character; Professor Tinkle. It clashed with his TV show. He was also offered the role that Charles Hawtrey played but turned it down because it was too small. Bernard Bresslaw gets to play another ‘native’ in Jungle as he plays Upsidaisi, the local guide. The film was originally intended to be a Tarzan spoof entitled “Carry on Tarzan” but Peter Rogers couldn’t get permission to use ‘Tarzan’. So Tarzan is called “Jungle Boy” and is played by Terry Scott after Jim Dale turned the film down. The plot sees Professor Tinkle (Frankie Howerd) searching Africa for rare species of birds but his companion Lady Bagley (Joan Sims) is the centre of the plot as she searches for her long-lost husband and baby boy Cecil.
Jungle has the standard Carry On running gags but they’re not great. The constant appearances of a gorilla just don’t provide any laughs at all and Tarzan…sorry…Jungle Boy’s inability to swing on his vines gets tired after the first time. Howerd gets in a lot of good one liners like when asked about why giraffes have such long necks; “because their heads are so far from their bodies”. Otherwise the opening third of the film moves at a snail’s pace. It’s turgid and Bernard Bresslaw aside largely tedious. As the plot progresses Jacki Piper makes friends with Scott’s Jungle Boy (in a Tarzan & Jane deal) in some awkward scenes. The rest of the cast are dealing with their ‘fish out of water’ situation rather badly by being scared of the locals and everyone else trying like hell to fuck Joan Sims.
Jungle is a rather flat entry retracing ground already covered in better Carry On movies (and the Road to flick in the jungle). There’s a good scene where at night there’s a load of tent swapping gags. The gorilla and Jungle Boy enter into the antics and it’s a tried and tested formula of confusion. As we enter the third act the guys are rescued by Amazonians called Lubby Dubbies. This gets Valeria Leon some screentime. Charles Hawtrey appears in these final scenes. By and large the film peters out and the third act is pretty thin. But then so was the first act. On the whole it has its moments but it’s clear by 1970 that the Carry On train was running out of steam.
Carry On Loving (1970)
Carry on Loving suffers from some rather lazy writing. The 70s brought forth a slew of sex comedies and Carry on Loving is very much a sex comedy. The humour lacks subtlety and loses out on the usual innuendo. The set-up is fairly familiar. Sid Bliss (Sid James) and his partner Sophie (Hattie Jacques) run a wedding agency and use a super-computer (Hattie on the other side of the wall with some cards) to find men suitable brides. Meanwhile relationship councillor Mr Snooper (Kenneth Williams) is forced to marry in order to better understand his job or lose it! Sophie is concerned about Sid’s out of hours activities and hires a private detective James Bedsop (Charles Hawtrey) to make sure he isn’t after client Esme (Joan Sims). The cast includes a mass of smaller roles especially Terry Scott who plays Terry Philpotts. He has a series of disasters before meeting Imogen Hassall.
Richard O’Callaghan plays Bertram Muffett, which would be the Jim Dale role, and accidentally ends up with model Sally Martin (Jacki Piper) after the Wedded Bliss Agency goof. She talks about stripping off the whole time she’s onscreen as yet more subtlety disappears from the series. I know that it was inevitable that Carry On films would have to update their humour but Carry on Loving suffers from the bluntness of the dialogue that had before been so much funnier as innuendo. Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey still maintain a degree of dignity and Sid James seems at home with the material. Especially when he does the whole taxi cab gag. Hattie Jacques also gets in a killer line as she describes Sid as looking like “an ancient walnut”. Also there’s the standard excellent turn from Bernard Bresslaw who plays wrestler Gripper Burke, Esme’s old flame.
The concept isn’t a bad one but the execution is consistently shaky. As if Peter Rogers, Gerald Thomas and Talbot Rothwell were struggling with the idea of doing something considerably more “risque”. The ladies aren’t quite up to the challenge. Jacki Piper is quite good but Janet Mahoney and Imogen Hassall don’t really cut it. Imogen is good looking but Barbara Windsor would have perhaps been a better fit. When the film goes over the top and into a sex comedy (not unlike Robin Askwith’s dire “Confessions of” movies) it really sucks. The occasional well written gags from Talbot Rothwell didn’t fall on deaf ears though and I enjoyed a few of the laughs that came in. So it’s not a total disaster but Carry on Loving is around the point where the Carry On series officially stopped being fun and started being tacky. There are still good movies in the franchise but once this film was ‘out there’ there was no going back. After all the diabolical Carry on Girls was only 3 years away!
Carry on Henry (1971)
Henry VIII. One of Britain’s most famous and recognisable personalities. The man who had six wives (or two if you’re actually counting accurately but let’s not get into that) and gave Catholicism the boot from England. A man who desperately wanted a male heir. But in the Carry On world he had six wives because he loved a bit of nookie. And who more appropriate for the role than Sid James. Talbot Rothwell had originally planned something a little more spectacular and wanted Harry Secombe to play the lead because he could sing. Carry on Henry sees Henry VIII adding in a few extra marriages. After having beheaded his current wife, who goes unnamed but is probably Catherine Howard (although she’s mentioned at the end of the film as the Queen’s lady in waiting), he marries Marie of Normandy (Joan Sims). But she won’t stop eating garlic and the smell angers Henry to the point where he wants to get rid of her. But her cousin is the King of France (Peter Gilmore) so Henry can’t just get his chopper out. Ahem.
The King’s Court is full of the usual wacky characters. Thomas Cromwell (Kenneth Williams) is the King’s advisor. Charles Hawtrey plays the comically named Roger de Lodgerly while Terry Scott gets the religious role of Cardinal Wolsey. Cromwell is a real person who the King had imprisoned in the Tower of London for the disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves (the legendary “Flanders Mare”). Wolsey was also a real person who also fell out with the King and lost all his power. Both are decent characters even if Rothwell’s writing was, by and large, on the wane by 1971. On the flipside is Lord Hampton (Kenneth Connor) who’s plotting to overthrow Henry. He tries to use the conspirators in his favour but Marie beats them up. Soon they all start scheming against each other with the aim of power and money. Compared to one of the great Carry on films like Carry on Cleo this film is a little thin. The gags are weak.
About an hour into the runtime Barbara Windsor shows up to introduce her usual perky charm to proceedings. As Bettina, a young girl at court, she interjects some essential divisions into the court. After all Henry and Marie are getting along far too well. There’s a lot of tittering and giggling and Henry falls in love with Bettina. The scheming and plotting continues. Roger gets tortured for most of the film providing the biggest laugh where Kenneth Williams goes to put Hawtrey in the Iron Maiden. He drops into that hugely over the top voice that he’s famous for. As all the various schemes come together (Henry, Marie, Cromwell, Hampton) the film rockets towards its conclusion. Soon Henry is sending people to the Tower one after another. It isn’t as solid as the tent swapping in Carry on up the Jungle nor does it match up to many of the classic Carry On conclusions. In short Carry on Henry is a disappointment considering how strong other period pieces had been for the Carry On crew.
Carry on at Your Convenience (1971)
This film marks the point at which Carry On attempted to do something noble and worthwhile. It tried to make a contemporary film about real problems and satirise them. Not just go for a string of obvious and crude gags set in a hospital/holiday camp or whatever. The result was a film that’s among the best of the 70s Carry On’s BUT has the unfortunate downside of being the first Carry On film to fail commercially. It took 7 years for the film to break even when it got paid for TV rights in 1978. Most Carry On films were a runaway success at the box office. This one was not. The film details industrial action lead by Vic Spanner (Kenneth Cope) at WC Boggs (Kenneth Williams) lavatory factory. There are a few similarities to Peter Sellers 1959 film I’m All Right Jack. One of the Ealing comedies that dealt with socialism. Naturally Carry On uses much broader strokes in its humour. The fact it’s a toilet factory brings forth a slew of toilet humour in the usual Carry On style to distract from this. There were concerns before production began in particular Joan Sims noted her worry about making the film.
Perhaps the film may have benefitted from a more experienced actor in one of the key leads. The inclusion of Kenneth Cope, who only appeared in two Carry On’s, in a lead role makes the film feel a little…weird. And having regular Bernard Bresslaw as his mugging sidekick doesn’t help matters. Plus Richard O’Callaghan is along as Boggs’ privileged son. He just isn’t funny. His timing in Carry on Loving just isn’t here and it was curtains for his Carry On career. Despite the surprising degree of intelligence and social relevance in the script there aren’t many jokes. Which is a pity because the concept is a good one. There are a few familiar faces among the supporting cast. Jacki Piper gets quite a big role as Sid James’ daughter and Geoffrey “Onslow” Hughes is one of the factory workers. Hugh Futcher is also on the shop floor and Patsy Rowlands has another role as Kenneth Williams’ underling who’s hugely attracted to him. Which she plays in practically every Carry On film she’s in.
The main plot is rather heavyweight so gets distracted at times by a silly sub-plot that involves Sid James’ budgie being able to pick the winners of horse races. At least this allows his wife, played by Hattie Jacques, to get some screen time. Although there’s a feeling that Sid is actually in love with his next door neighbour played by Joan Sims. Her husband, Bill Maynard, is really stuffy and old fashioned. Sid is a good laugh by comparison. This dynamic allows for a few gags at Maynard’s expense, because he’s so good at playing the role, and also for there to be a scene of some seriousness. After a works outing to Brighton both Sid and Joan return home and talk about the possibilities of a relationship. It’s very subtle how the film suddenly changes gears and obviously Sid gets a gag-line in at the end but it was a hugely enjoyable change of pace.
Despite having an assortment of flaws Carry on at Your Convenience was one of those rare moments during the Carry On series where they did something different without betraying their comic roots. The main characters are there still. Kenneth Williams, Sid James, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims etc. The humour is a bit hit and miss but the fact they tried something real for a change made a big difference for me. It’s a pity the film wasn’t a hit because the Carry On series degenerated after this. As if the general public had vetoed Carry On ever getting more serious than slapstick. They didn’t enjoy the satire or the realism. A shame, really.
Carry on Matron (1972)
So it was back. Not to the drawing board because that might have produced something new and original. No, it was back to the same old, same old. Matron was the 4th Carry On film to take place in the now familiar setting of a hospital. It might seem strange but series regular Jack Douglas makes his debut here. Strange that he’d debut with so few films remaining in the series and still be considered a regular but that’s the facts. He was originally hired for a cameo but both Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas were so thrilled with it that he was first choice for most movies after this. And on the flipside was Terry Scott who was here appearing in his final Carry On film. Never really a huge star in the series Scott had provided many memorable supporting roles. He’s perhaps better known to the modern viewing audience for his role in Terry & June with June Whitfield, which ran from 1979 to 1987 and his voice-work on Dangermouse where he voiced the character of Penfold. Crikey, chief!
Also Jacki Piper appears in her final, of four, Carry On films. Jacki had her moments but never really established herself as a star within the Carry On team. Matron also has a bit part for Wendy Richard, who is far more famous for her long-standing role on Eastenders. The plot sees Sid James heading a gang of thieves interested in stealing contraceptive pills. Sid’s gang includes Bernard Bresslaw and Sid’s “son” Cyril (Kenneth Cope). Cyril is sufficiently feminine that Sid gets him to impersonate a nurse. Kenneth Williams plays Sir Bernard, the hypochondriac head surgeon, and Hattie Jacques once again reprises her famous Matron role. The other major players are Dr Goode (Charles Hawtrey), Mrs Tidey (Joan Sims) and her time-obsessed rail worker husband (Kenneth Connor). Big-titted Barbara Windsor and her assets make up the numbers along with the sexy Valerie Leon as a film star. It’s not a bad cast. But naturally the hospital setting and the majority of the gags make things a little predictable. On the other hand most of the main cast have great chemistry with each other. Williams & Hattie Jacques especially.
The action gets a little risque with a lot of underwear on show. This was the same year that Caberet was released though. And The Godfather won the Oscar. This makes Matron look, by comparison, very dated. The series was out of touch with the real world. Even more so than earlier in the series. The only real interest comes from Kenneth Williams being so convinced he’s turning into a woman, despite how illogical and unscientific that is, that he feels the need to bed Matron to prove he’s a man. Unbeknownst to him Matron is already in a sneaky ‘relationship’ with Charles Hawtrey’s married psychologist based on watching TV show “The Surgeon”. Everyone is so in tune with each other that they’ve really gotten the reactions down with one another. And that’s part of the problem. Everyone’s so comfortable. Yeah, it’s one of their better casts but because there are so many characters it feels like a ‘best of’.
There are a lot of strong scenes though. One where the thieves discuss the robbery and get caught up in where Bresslaw was born (“on a number 73 bus in Brixton”). But some of the performances are a little overdone. Especially Kenneth Williams who goes completely over the top at times. It’s only really fun to watch if you like that sort of thing. I’d rather he saved it for one or two moments during the film. Rather than constant scene chewing. Kenneth Connor is entertaining too. “I’ve got to be back at work by Monday…we’re starting another strike”. But like I said all the craziness one scene after another just makes the film feel like a ‘best of Carry On’ rather than an actual film. Good for a string of laughs; a series of scenes full of one-liners that don’t lead anywhere. At times it is a good old fashioned caper movie too…with tits. A surprise thumbs up.
Carry on Abroad (1972)
With the advent of cheap package holidays in the 70s there was a new potential target for the Carry On crew. With more and more people flocking to sunny Spain instead of the south coast of England, a target of Carry on at Your Convenience, it created possibilities. Carry On was never great at moving with the times but this new target was just too juicy to resist. Carry on Abroad details the Spanish holiday from hell. With a group of Brits heading off for sun, sea and frolics. Vic (Sid James) is looking to set himself up with a customer from his pub the young Sadie (Barbara Windsor) behind the back of his wife (Joan Sims). The trip is being organised by the officious Stuart Farquar (Kenneth Williams). Charles Hawtrey also has a prominent role in his final Carry On film. His final film, actually. He went into retirement immediately afterwards only reappearing for a couple of TV shows before his death in 1988.
The cast also features Kenneth Connor, June Whitfield, Bernard Bresslaw, Hattie Jacques and Peter Butterworth. The latter having one his best Carry On experiences as the only employee of the hotel in Spain. The hotel itself is only half-made because of a row between Butterworth’s Pepe and the foreman. Nothing in the hotel works and the bathrooms are all adjoining without notice, which leads to some comical misunderstandings. Incidentally if you want to see Barbara Windsor naked; this is your movie. Hawtrey in his last Carry On is the only character who seems to really get into the role. Just throwing himself into it with reckless abandon. Many of the others are just going through the motions. Kenneth Connor’s usual run-down hen-pecked husband is pretty decent, as always, and Jimmy Logan is an interesting addition to the team. Hattie Jacques seems to be having fun playing a large Spanish chef too.
It does rather seem by this point that Carry On actresses were hired on the basis of how many clothes they were willing to take off. Case in point; Gail Grainger. Nothing personal but she seems very rigid, almost wooden, but is quite happy to parade around in her underwear. By the time of Carry on Abroad the Carry On team had probably run out of steam. But that doesn’t stop them from churning out a movie every 6 months. Charles Hawtrey charging into a strip club with a sword is fairly epic and it does have the usual set pieces and double entrendres that you’d expect. It just seems rushed and messy. Which is a common complaint for the series as it aged. The script seems a little tired despite the new ground it was treading. The only exception being Kenneth Williams’ use of the word “poppinjay”.
Carry on Girls (1973)
This movie sucks so bad I didn’t want to re-watch it for Series Link. Damn my dedication to the cause! This film is so bad it features a character called “Cecil Gaybody”, which was written for Charles Hawtrey and is rumoured to be the reason he retired. It was then offered to Kenneth Williams who told them were to go. So it ended up being a totally inappropriate Jimmy Logan role. The film is another to feature some nudity (Babs Windsor & Margaret Nolan) and does have quite a solid cast. Sid James, Bernard Bresslaw, Joan Sims and Kenneth Connor are the leads. But the film details a beauty contest in a rainy south-coast town (humorously named “Fircombe”). So we have Kenneth Connor ACTING (badly, I might add) for a change and everything else is just totty on show.
Generally the rule of thumb regarding bad Carry On films is if Jack Douglas is in it the bigger the role he plays; the worse the movie is. He has a sizeable role in this film and it’s probably the worst Carry On film ever made*. Who’d have thought that making fun of people’s speech impediments would be so unfunny? I appreciate Kenneth Connor trying to go against type with his role but everyone else is on autopilot. Sid James is just two movies away from death. Bernard Bresslaw looks incredibly subdued. June Whitfield is one of the few performers who make the most of the movie. More worrying is the inclusion of Robin Askwith, terrible actor, who starred in the rival Confessions Of series. The Confessions Of series kicked off the following year with the remarkably dreadful Confessions of a Window Cleaner. On the upside at least Jack Douglas isn’t in it.
*until the last two
Then there’s a deliberate attempt to make it up to the ladies for the whole beauty contest by including a woman’s lib movement led by June Whitfield. As if to apologise for all the boobs and whatnot. In one scene Kenneth Connor is exposed in his bath. After a while the only amusement I got was the sight of Peter Butterworth’s outrageous sideburns and his attempts to be a dirtier old man than Sid James. Geez…what else? Joan Sims calling Babs a “scrubber”. That’s about it. The film has dated horribly too. The “saucy” swimsuit costumes for example and the terrible soundtrack. The dialogue is cringeworthy at times. Some of the supporting cast are monumentally awful and it’s no coincidence that the worst film in the series features Robin Askwith.
Talbot Rothwell’s scripts were getting pretty tiresome by this point as he ran out of good innuendo. He only had one more movie after this with Carry on Dick before retiring. Not that his departure improved the writing on the series but at this point it couldn’t have hurt. Cecil Gaybody must be the worst character ever written for the series. Jimmy Logan just embarrasses himself in the role. Meanwhile Sid & Babs attempt to get more and more publicity for the show by dressing Bernard Bresslaw up as the ugliest tranny of all time. Fucking awful.
Carry on Dick (1974)
This was the final film for Talbot Rothwell, the long standing Carry On scribe. He went on to work for Frankie Howerd on TV mainly on Up Pompeii before passing away in 1981. During the script process Rothwell had a nervous breakdown and had to dictate the screenplay to his daughter. Clearly the rushed schedules of the Carry On franchise had taken its tole. He wasn’t the only victim. Series star Sid James called it a day after this film. He continued with his TV series Bless This House until dying in 1976 of a heart attack onstage in Sunderland. Hattie Jacques also finished her Carry On career with this film but continued to star in the TV show Sykes until 1979 and she died in 1980. It was also the last Carry On movie to star Barbara Windsor who left the series and 20 years later became a stalwart on TV soap opera Eastenders. There were still some regulars in the remaining films but Kenneth Williams only made two more after this. There was a feeling that the departure of Talbot Rothwell signalled the end of the series.
This trailer makes the movie seem even lamer by the voice-over removing some of the dirtier double-meanings. Replacing “weapon” with “gun” when describing why Turpin is called “Big Dick”. Although PC humour and not being funny often run hand in hand.
Carry on Dick sees Sid James star as Highwayman Dick Turpin. The very use of the word Dick producing a tonne of innuendo only added to the presence of the main pub in the film being called the Cock Inn. Seeing as this is the final film for many of the regular cast they do go out on a high. Most of the cast seem quite happy with their roles. Alongside Sid in Turpin’s “gang” are Peter Butterworth and Barbara Windsor. Making it one of the lamest “gangs” in cinematic history. Bernard Bresslaw gets to play it straight for a change and shows his versatility as chief antagonist Sir Roger Daley. Again with the puns! Kenneth Williams plays his main underling Captain Desmond Fancy. And his underling is played by Jack Douglas. His characters name? Jock Strap. I think Rothwell’s nervous breakdown may have been cover for “I’ve run out of ideas”. Various regulars appear in supporting roles including Kenneth Connor making good use of that accent he developed for the last movie and Joan Sims as the leader of a travelling group called the Birds of Paradise. Who are 18th Century versions of French showgirls. Hattie Jacques gets a memorable goodbye as Turpin’s housekeeper who believes he’s a harmless rector at the local church.
Carry on Dick has a lot of familiar innuendo but the period costumes seem to inspire the actors to do a little better than the previous two entries in the series. Abroad & Girls were perhaps a little stale and returning to the period piece allowed a little more freedom. Both Sid James and Kenneth Williams do well in this situation as they reign themselves in. Sid especially who is terrific as the peaceful and mild mannered rector. His alterego of Dick Turpin is just the normal Sid but he shows he has a little range for a change. Williams is quite reserved compared to his usual flamboyant routine and manages a decent outing here amongst a sea of overdone and overacted performances. The usual craziness kicks in at the conclusion as the cornered Turpin has to escape the church before his sermon ends with an assortment of bad guys looking on. It borders on ludicrous at times but it IS a Carry On movie. These things happen. This is probably the last Carry On film that’s worth watching although I get the feeling I’ve said that before. But this time I mean it. With Rothwell gone and the series regulars starting to fall away interest waned.
But the producers weren’t done yet. This would have been a nice logical point to call time on Carry On. I originally planned to end the column with this film but seeing as there are only four more Carry On films in existence I might as well do them too.
Carry on Behind (1975)
So with the previous writer having gone bonkers, probably due to trying to think of new double entrendres, a new writer was required. No problem. There are literally millions of us. Talbot Rothwell was replaced as series writer by Dave Freeman. He’d previously been writing the TV show Carry on Laughing, which were Carry On shorts. I saw a few and frankly they were rubbish. He was also a writer for Sid James’ sitcom Bless This House. With already established links to the Carry On team he was a natural choice. His first choice for setting however was a return to the Carry On Camping campsite. They filmed Carry On Behind on the same site with some of the same characters! Sid James was in Australia doing a play so Windsor Davies replaced him. Things started to go wrong during production as the “summer holiday” setting was covered in snow for a while.
Another notable addition to the Carry On team was guest star and Euro sex-pot Elke Sommer. You may remember her from A Shot in the Dark, the Clouseau movie. She earned £30,000 in the process, which made her the highest paid performer since Phil Silvers in Follow That Camel. Just watching the title sequence for Carry On Behind makes you realise how low the series had sunk. The animated pictures of girls arses about summed up how rubbish Carry On was by this point. The plot sees Professor Roland Crump (Kenneth Williams) taking Russian “professor” Vooshka (Elke Sommer) on an archaeological dig. The dig takes place on a camping site with hilarious consequences. The opening scene has tits in it (Jenny Cox). The bonus of Carry On getting lazy was that you got more boobies. The main characters in Carry On Behind are basically a reprise of Sid James & Bernard Bresslaw in Carry on Camping. This time played by Jack Douglas and Windsor Davies.
Some of the supporting cast are useless. Ian Lavender gets the old Jim Dale role for example and he’s crap. At least Bernard Bresslaw gets a big role and is married to Patsy Rolands. And his mother in law is Joan Sims in one of her more prudish roles, which generally adds up to comedy. But the reactions are so overplayed in this film. Windsor Davies especially. This was Bernard Bresslaw’s last Carry On film and he looks a bit pissed off with it all. Probably because Elke Sommer got paid so much more money than him. Most of her comedy comes from her inability to pronounce words and understand English (a formula that would repeated with even some of the exact same gags in Carry on Emmannuelle). There are a few memorable scenes like the drunken Windsor Davies trying to attend to the ‘injured’ Kenneth Williams.
Apologies for the horrible picture quality but it is the best scene in the film.
The best bit being when he screams at Williams to “RELAX”. There’s a decent bit of acting with Joan Sims and Peter Butterworth in a rare straight scene. But, as Al Murray said, Carry On films are crap. Always have been, always will be. But some are less crap than others. This is one of the crappier entries. Come back Talbot; all is forgiven!
Carry on England (1976)
Oh yes, this piece of shit. Pulled from cinemas after only 3 days in some parts of the UK it was a notorious bomb and effectively signalled the end of the Carry On series. It was originally pitched as starring Kenneth Williams, Carol Hawkins and Penelope Keith. All three rejected the script. Hawkins because she considered the film to contain too much nudity. She may have bared all in the previous film but perhaps didn’t want to spend most of this one in the buff. So Carry On went with Confessions actress Linda Regan instead for the nudity and Tricia Newby for sexiness. There are still some regulars involved in production though. Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims, Jack Douglas and Peter Butterworth all appeared along with the returning Windsor Davies. The rest of the cast is downright dodgy. That’s not even the worst of it! The character names in Carry on England are just laughably lazy. Captain S. Melly? Private Alice Easy? Bombardier Ready? Tilly Willing? Len Able? Come on! Three funny names for one lame gag! As far as crap Carry On films go this is pretty much the crappiest. Although it has strong competition from Carry on Emmanuelle, which is the next movie in the series.
You can imagine my horror when I realised that in order to review this film I’d have to watch it again. At my first attempt I got 8 minutes in and just gave up. Windsor Davies is perfectly cast as the shouty sergeant major and everything else is a total, total disaster. The last film’s script had been so poor they’d gone elsewhere for writers and came up with David Pursall and Jack Seddon. Both would eventually write for TV show What a Carry On and manage below that weak standard here. It feels like someone broke into the Carry On offices and stole all the jokes. One good supporting character and a load of crap does not make for a good movie.
In Carry on England Captain S. Melly (Kenneth Connor) is sent to sort out a mixed troop in charge of a gun placement during World War II. The lazy soldiers have been used to a life of luxury and lovemaking and aren’t interested in becoming real soldiers. Connor’s persistence, with the assistance of Sgt Major Bloomer (Windsor Davies), is met with a wall of resistance, pranks and hijinx. Each as devoid of humour as the one that preceded it. It really doesn’t help having the irritating Patrick Mower as the main character among the troops. He is painfully dull to watch. The very antithesis of funny. The film drags on with only Windsor Davies for amusement. Even Kenneth Connor looks tired and pissed off. Joan Sims is still there in a minor role as is Peter Butterworth but the script is so thin they’ve got no hope of salvaging anything.
Carry on England is a spectacular failure. Not only one of the worst films in the history of the franchise but, quite frankly, one of the worst films full stop. If Windsor Davies didn’t make a mediocre character that much more entertaining than it should have been it would be even worse. On the upside there are two scenes where a multitude of ladies bare their breasts. Otherwise there’s nothing to see here. Move along, now.
Carry on Emmannuelle (1978)
The last of the original series was this dire excuse for a film. Kenneth Williams turned down the original script saying it was “offensive”. Whether that was offensively bad or had too much nudity in it is debatable. Either way he changed his mind and was cast in this, his final Carry On film. I think it was offensively lowly paid and a counter offer got him onboard. Either way he treats it like a total joke. Also offended was Barbara Windsor, used to showing her tits off on film, who was offered a small role in the film and turned it down. Again whether it was because the role was so small or so offensive or so badly paid is debatable. Fat mess Claire Davenport took over the role. Which ties us into Star Wars because Claire played one of the dancers (the fat one) at Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi. Also it ties into one of my earlier series links; the Pink Panther, as Claire was a masseuse (the fat one) in Return of the Pink Panther two years after this. Small world, eh?
Emmannuelle (notice the deliberate misspelling to avoid a lawsuit from the Emmanuelle filmmakers) was the final nail in the Carry On series coffin. Not to be resurrected again until 1992’s Carry on Columbus. Further attempts to resurrect the series have met with failure. Meanwhile the Emmanuelle series, on which this spoof was based, kick-started in 1974 and spawned six sequels and a TV series. It’s interesting to note that the Emmanuelle series eventually jumped the shark and went into space. A shame we never got a Carry on to the Moon or some such (Carry on Spaceman was actually suggested but never made). It would have been quite terrible but so was this. For those wondering if I’d do a series link for Emmanuelle here it is; all the films are rubbish but have a lot of tits in. The End.
Having gotten a few laughs from Elke Sommer’s comical misunderstandings with Kenneth Williams in Carry on Behind the producers go with a similar setup here. Elke replaced by Suzanne Danielle as Emmannuelle Prevert (see what they did there?) She’s married to French ambassador to England, Emile, played by Kenneth Williams complete with ridiculous accent. Kenneth seems to have totally lost the plot here with his faux-French accent wavering all over the place. The jokes have lost their subtlety but there is the occasional corker. Like when Williams tells his wife she could have any Tom, Dick or Harry. “I don’t want Tom or Harry” she replies. Suzanne Danielle is a pretty bad lead and was probably only selected because she looks like Sylvia Kristal. Her career as an actress was somewhat limited and she ended up retiring in the late 80s and marrying golfer Sam Torrance.
If Carry On films had been getting crap for some time this is now beyond crap and into whatever happens after that. The script is an attempt to cash in on the Emmanuelle series and penned by Kiwi writer Lance Peters. The only other film of any note he wrote was George Miller film Gross Misconduct in 1993 starring Naomi Watts and Jimmy Smits. Because of the script’s obsession with trying to mimic Emmanuelle the film tries to follow Suzanne Danielle’s sexual exploits but never gets filthy enough to pass over into soft-core porn like the target of the parody. The rest of the cast are Carry On regulars looking past their best (the only funny efforts coming from an aging and deaf Peter Butterworth recalling his sexual exploits during WW2) and nobodies. Oh, and Beryl Reid makes a minor appearance. Sexy!
So that was it for Carry On until the series was re-launched with the one off 1992 film Carry on Columbus. Jim Dale, Bernard Cribbins, Jack Douglas and Leslie Philips all returned to be a part of the production. Harry Enfield and Robbie Coltrane were originally due to star but both turned prominent roles down. Coltrane the lead role itself. Many of the original cast members also turned down roles including Bernard Bresslaw, Joan Sims and Kenneth Connor. The film is quite terrible but did decent box office. Enough for Peter Rogers to consider another film. In 2003 he announced that Carry on London would be the next Carry On but it struggled in pre-production. It went through 3 directors who could all have done a decent job of it.
Starting with Peter Richardson, who should have been in the Young Ones having been cast as Mike but falling out with the director and was better known for the Comic Strip Presents series. He appeared in Carry on Columbus along with other alternative comedians. His productions have been incredibly wacky and include Glam Metal Detectives (which featured a character called Colin Corleone, one of my favourite comedy characters of all time), Robbie Coltrane movie the Pope Must Die and the quite brilliant Stella Street. He was last seen directing Christian Slater in Churchill: The Hollywood Years. He was probably passed over for the Carry On role for being too funny. Then Ed Bye was scheduled to direct. He was the director on one of the best TV shows of all time; Red Dwarf. Unfortunately his movies routinely suck (Kevin & Perry Go Large and Viz adaptation Fat Slags). His inability to make the move to the big screen probably cost him the gig. And finally Charlie Higson was attached to direct. Which is weird because he’s not known for that sort of thing having made his fame as a member of the Fast Show cast. He’s also been a writer for some time and written 13 books including the most recent “The Enemy”, which is almost certain to make it into cinematic form sooner or later. Seeing as Peter Rogers died Carry on London will now never happen and the production company has gone into liquidation. I think it’s probably for the best. After all the last good Carry On film was released before I was born.
Carry on Up the Jungle **1/2
Carry on Loving **
Carry on Henry **
Carry on at Your Convenience ***1/2
Carry on Matron ***
Carry on Abroad **1/2
Carry on Girls *
Carry on Dick ***
Carry on Behind **
Carry on England BOOO!
Carry on Emmannuelle BOOO!
The 411 –
Despite its overall poor quality Carry On has endearing qualities and remains a British institution. And even at the end of its prolific run still produced a few gems like Convenience, Matron and Dick. As the series dragged on however the quality dropped off severely and once writer Talbot Rothwell departed after Carry on Dick the series was effectively dead. The Carry On series remained popular on TV throughout my youth though and I remember watching Carry On films and clipshows for many years. Yes, the jokes are crap but that way they’ll never age! They’ll always be crap. God bless ‘em!