Carry On Films

Not everyone’s cup of tea I know, and I have a mixed relationship with them myself, but with 30 films made over a 20 year period they hold an iconic place in the history of British popular cinema and, I think, have an interesting place in our social history that goes far beyond their double entendre based humour. Plus, some of the films were actually pretty funny. What’s more, they are a brilliant example of efficient and economic film making. Made on small budgets in lightening quick time, they all made money and were able to respond to social or cultural trends in the blink of an eye. There was a western spoof, a horror spoof, a spy spoof; films based in hospitals, schools holiday camps and army bases. They would be made so quick that they could re-use the sets and even costumes of the films they parodied and all made on the smell of an oily rag. Like them or loathe them you have to be impressed at their level of efficiency and the success they managed to maintain over such a long period.

So, partly because I remember them fondly, partly because I love a project and partly because I want to argue their merits with last.caress I’ve decided to work my way through them all over again in the same fashion I did with the Bond films a little while ago. In chronological order of course.

So, to start it was the one which kicked off the series: Carry On Sergeant (1958)

With no scantily clad girls anywhere in sight this film is of a much gentler and more innocent pedigree. With only a few of the team which would later become the regulars of the series Carry on Sergeant could slip in unnoticed amongst any bunch of British film comedies of its time but it is easy to see why it was so popular and warranted a quick follow up with Carry On Nurse the next year. Kenneth Connor plays possibly his best Carry On part as the hypochondriac recruit, Kenneth Williams is in his pre camp overacting period as the suave educated one, Charles Hawtrey personifies the limp wristed fool he came to make his trade mark while the lead is actually played by Bob Monkhouse in his only Carry On. Only 3 women in the whole picture which shows how different a beast it is to the sex comedies which were to follow in later decades. Hattie Jacques as the Army doctor, Dora Bryan as the besotted canteen girl and the lovely Shirley Easton bringing the only bit of glamour in sight.

I remembered liking this film as a kid and I have to say I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for British films of the 50s and this one still has plenty of charm. If you only know Carry Ons for the ribald stuff of their later years it might surprise you but for my money it is still one of the better efforts of the series.

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A double bill of Carry Ons for me today in my bid to get through all 30 again.

Carry On Nurse and Carry On Teacher, both released in 1959 and following the same format as the first film. The stock company of actors is beginning to form now but there are still a few faces who don’t stay on for the long haul of the series. For example I’d forgotten that Leslie Phillips was these ones. Joan Sims has now joined the team but still no Sid James. Both films have some genuine laugh out loud moments and there’s not much separating these first three in quality for me although Teacher is probably pipped by the first two as I build my list of favourites.

The good news is I’ve enjoyed all of them so far as much as I remembered them. And even my eye rolling disapproving family have broken into laughter a few times.
Bring on the next one.

Good idea with re-visiting the ‘Carry On’s’, Phil!

I did this a few years ago.

I decided to buy every film on DVD, and then made my way through them in chronological order. It was amazing to see how they started to progress with the addition of well-known character actors, and subtle humour; and then - to some degree - do a U-turn, and abandon subtle humour for literal ‘in-your-face’ smut.

The early ones are ‘easy viewing’, from a more family-orientated era. Another good thing about the early films is that they captured - on celluloid - a glimpse of life in Britain all those years ago.
The later films did - I feel - run out of ideas, and relied heavily on sea-side post-card humour (which the majority of the public adored). After all, this was at the height of package holidays abroad, and the ‘sexual revolution’ was well underway!

As a small kid, I remember my parents dragging me off to the local cinema every time a ‘Carry On’ had been released. A lot of the ‘humour’ was way above my head at the time, but I do remember that the cinema (on each occasion) was always packed full of laughter.

Like yourself, Phil, I think it might be time to re-visit these timeless films all over again - if only to re-visit a Britain of yesteryear, and to have a good old blimmin’ belly-laugh in the process!!

Happy viewing!

Its been a good few years since I’ve watched any of them, but I do remember Up The Khyber was my personal favorite.

I do like a good Carry On film. The early one’s strike me as a bit genteel, but “Teacher” seems to be where the bawdy humour starts to come into its own.

My personal favourite is “Up The Jungle”, mostly for Charles Hawtrey’s reading of line “bleeding hell, it’s the wife”. Also for the amazons.

To add something vaguely Western related: “Cowboy” has it’s moments. I particularly liked the elderly Sheriff’s ride across the street, to epic cattle-drive music.

Carry On Constable (1960) today and another enjoyable ride for me. As Toscano said below these older ones are more subtle in a way and certainly more family friendly. All had the old ‘U’ certificate. But as I have a fondness for such old British comedies that is a plus for me. They are somewhat of a nostalgia trip for sure and the ‘glimpse of life in Britain’ which they offer is certainly part of their charms for those of us of a certain age.

Sadly, I think this might be the last one with Leslie Phillips which will be a pity as I always enjoy his presence. The rest of the team have settled into their stock roles though and Sid James has finally turned up. Kenneth Connor probably steals the show in this one with his astrological and superstitious neurotic but everyone delivers what you’d expect. I liked it.

Carry On Regardless (1961) today and it fell a bit flat to be honest. No plot, just an assortment of sketches based around the ‘Helping Hands’ job agency. Don’t get me wrong, plots are not really the lynch pins of these films but it all seemed a bit random and directionless without one, however flimsy. Liz Frazer was a nice new addition but Leslie Phillips was sadly missed. Least of the five I’ve seen so far. Strange, as I remember it being better than this.

Carry On Behind is my favourite one.

I can’t really get on with some of the earlier ones, I like them more from the mid 60’s onwards when they start to get a little saucier.

For me, 1964 (Cleo) to 1972 (Abroad) are the prime years. That’s not to say that the movies prior to those years didn’t have their charm, there’s nowt wrong with an innocent, gentle bit of comedy, and Britain excelled in that stuff, what with the Richard Gordon Doctor films, the Norman Wisdom pictures and whatnot. And those early Carry Ons were really good at that, too. It’s just that, imo, the Carry On team really hit their stride in that “Saucy Seaside Postcard” area where sex and sexuality were the catalysts for double entendre-laden comedy but where, ultimately, the women were still the empowered ones and the men were all still basically harmless bumbling halfwits, and not all of them were even especially interested in chasing down the ladies. There was plenty of “You don’t get many of those to the pound” but it was still rather sweet, really. Unfortunately, times and trends changed and, in trying to keep up with the likes of the blatantly misogynistic On the Buses or the even bawdier Confessions of… franchises, sex stopped becoming the catalyst for comedy in the Carry On pictures and “comedy” - such as it was - sadly became the thinly-veiled excuse for ogling some tits instead. They started doing it the wrong way round (oo-er missus, et cetera), and imo the Carry Ons were weaker for it in their later years. I have seen/heard it suggested that the later films struggled through being so badly stripped of the most beloved members of the ensemble but I don’t know if I buy that. Maybe to a small degree but no more than that. Windsor Davies and Jack Douglas seem to be a poor substitute for Sid James and Bernard Bresslaw on the face of it but I think that’s more a result of Talbot Rothwell not being the writer anymore (although even his last effort, Carry on Dick, wasn’t a classic) as opposed to anything messrs. Davies and Douglas or any other of the cast members might be doing wrong. Mr Rothwell really understood the comedy for which the Carry Ons are most celebrated and he was, imo, a significant upgrade on early screenwriter Norman Hudis who was good at what he did but didn’t especially distinguish his Carry On movies from other British comedies from that earlier, gentler period.

Agree with most of what you say last.caress but I would include the early ones in the prime years and make the cut off a bit earlier. I am a bigger fan of the charm which the early ones have I suppose and less of one of the broader style which followed. Still, I’m hoping that in re-watching them all now I might discover something new. We shall see.

Anyway, Carry On Cruising (1962) has been viewed and I enjoyed it more than I expected. Still very much in the gentle fun mode it did contain some genuine laughs and always nice for me to see little old Esma Cannon in a more featured role. The first Carry On without Charles Hawtrey which seemed a bit strange. Apparently he demanded top billing so they left him out instead. I also read that Kenneth Williams demanded more money but when he discovered it was to be set in the Mediterranean he signed up anyway. Being a Carry On of course they never left Pinewood for the whole shoot. That’ll teach 'em.

Carry On Cabby (1963) was the latest instalment to be viewed and I enjoyed it quite a lot but it feels quite unlike a typical Carry On in some ways. More story driven, more character play involved and a bit more sentimental in places. It also has a different theme tune to that used in all the previous films and doesn’t have Kenneth Williams in it which just feels wrong. However, it is a really nice little film and lets Hattie Jacques and Sid James do a little more than pull faces. Jacques actually gets nearly all the good lines. It is also Talbot Rothwell’s first writing credit in the series and he delivered a good script. So, all in all, not your classic Carry On in many ways but possibly my favourite so far. In a way it seems wrong to rate it above the others because it is not a typical example but then, as the years went by they did change so I guess this is just another incarnation. I remembered liking this one and it turns out I still do.

Ah, the first colour movie of the series, although you’ve still a couple of b/w pictures to go; Carry on Spying for certain, and another one that escapes me for the time being. When I think “Carry on Cruising”, I think “Lance Percival”. He seemed a natural fit for the Carry On team to me, as did Bob Monkhouse before him and, later, Roy Castle. Ah well. Same goes for Frankie Howerd who only appeared in a couple but who felt - to me - as though he was in a lot more.

Yes, Tolly Rothwell’s first stab as you say, and I don’t think that it was originally going to be a Carry On either which may account for the ever-so-slightly different tone. I think it was initially entitled simply “Call Me a Cab!”.

Two more Carry Ons watched this weekend.

Carry On Dick (1963) was the second one in colour and the first in an historical setting. Strangely, only Williams and Hawtrey from the regular team are here unless you count Jim Dale who at this stage was just doing bit parts in the series. As a result it again almost doesn’t feel like a proper Carry On in many ways. A couple of nice additions though. Bernard Cribbins is always good value in a British 60s comedy and Juliet Mills adds a bit of loveliness too. Noticeable to me that this is the first of these films that has Kenneth Williams in full over acting mode. This is what Williams became known for but up until now we haven’t seen any of it. In this one he gets going with both barrels and steals the show as a result. Enjoyable film in a Saturday morning pictures kind of way.

Carry On Spying (1964) is the first of the series to be a spoof. All of the others so far in some way or another are effectively situation comedies but this one sets out squarely to make fun of the James Bond phenomenon that was so popular at the time. They do it well too. Again there is only Williams and Hawtrey from the old crew but with Barbara Windsor making her series debut, Jim Dale getting an expanded role and Bernard Cribbins filling in again it felt like a more familiar cast and hit all the right notes for me. Williams is in full on “‘Ere, stop messin’ about” mode which is how I like him best and little Babs’ chest wobbling harem dance is a joy to behold. Still a ‘U’ certificate film but clearly heading towards the end of the pier stuff the series became better known for. For me this one gets the balance just right and is probably my favourite of the 9 I’ve re-watched so far. The last one in black and white apparently which is a shame. I like the monochrome thing with these sorts of films.

Carry On Cleo (1964)

Made to cash in on the notoriety and popularity of the Burton/Taylor flick and apparently utilised a bunch of their left over costumes and sets to make it affordable for the usual Carry On budgets (not the first or last time this will happen) this is possibly many people’s idea of a quintessential Carry On film. Puns galore, the men getting leerier and everyone chewing scenery left right and centre. The amazing thing is how well something this silly works and still remains funny 50 years later. Kenneth Williams gets all the good lines again and his “Infamy, Infamy, they’ve all got it in fer me” has become the stuff of British comedy legend. In some other ways though the film is less strong than some of its predecessors I think. The voice over stuff is poor and for all its good scenes there is a slap dash feel to its structure. More a collection of scenes than a cohesive whole. It’s still good fun though and a classic of the series without doubt.

Carry On Cowboy (1965)

The 11th film in the series and the only one to have its own page in the Spaghetti Western Database! Has some good moments but the plot of mistaken identity of the new Marshall must have been used by more comedy westerns than any other and falls a bit flat as a result. The bad American accents don’t help either but what the heck, it’s a Carry On and it delivers some laughs amongst the nonsense. Not one of the best by a long way but had me chuckling in places. Best line was Sid James’ when introduced to the glamorous squaw. “Never mind How. Where?” ;D

Hi, Phil. Great to hear that you are enjoying re-living the ‘Carry On’ saga!

As for ‘Carry on Cowboy’…a classic, to my mind! I love the Sid James line: “One minute it was peace on…the next, it was peace off!”

By the way, Phil, I thought you might be interested that ‘NETWORK’ DVD have a sale on at the moment, and the ‘Edgar Wallace’ seven volume box-set is available, at £43.20.
My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I seem to remember reading that you are an Edgar Wallace fan, and that you missed out on this set a while ago! You may have already bought it since then; but…if not… then it’s up for grabs!

All the best, Phil,…and keep Carrying On!!

[quote=“Toscano, post:17, topic:3484”]By the way, Phil, I thought you might be interested that ‘NETWORK’ DVD have a sale on at the moment, and the ‘Edgar Wallace’ seven volume box-set is available, at £43.20.
My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I seem to remember reading that you are an Edgar Wallace fan, and that you missed out on this set a while ago! You may have already bought it since then; but…if not… then it’s up for grabs![/quote]I’ve got that box, good stuff. Gradually working my way through it, as Merton Park Studios is just a mile and a half or so down the road to me you see a fair bit of local footage, i enjoy spotting the locations and how some have changed over the last 50 years or so.

Yes, I am a fan of those Edgar Wallaces. Well, British films of the 50s and 60s in general really and I have a soft spot for the 'B’s of which these are great examples. I will be picking up the box set for sure.

If you want to see some more Merton Studio stuff Network also have a set called ‘The Scales of Justice’ which you might enjoy. A series of short films (only about 30 minutes or so each) which were made as support programme fillers for cinemas in the early sixties with a clear eye to selling them on to television in a few years. Only £7.50 for the set I think with about 13 films in it. All based around supposed real life court cases but most with such low level crimes that they make you smile at how different times have become. One is just about a divorce, another is about breach of promise. Not exactly hard hitting stuff but I do enjoy them and good to see the usual familiar faces showing up.

Carry On Screaming (1966)

Hammer Horror meets The Addams Family via Southend Pier and The Mill of the Stone Women. It seems to me that the Carry On producers got the mix just about right with these early to mid sixties efforts. Heavy on the puns, not quite so heavy on the double entendre, spoofing something familiar with a familiar cast of favourites doing what they did best. This one is another which kept me chuckling and will certainly feature in the upper ends of the list once I’ve finished working my way through the lot. Fanella Fielding is a nice addition and Harry H. Corbett is also welcome in sadly his only Carry On. Fielding and Kenneth Williams steal the show though. “Frying tonight!”