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.