WFTB Score: 9/20
The plot: Wellington Crowther, Captain of the SS Happy Wanderer, finds his 10th anniversary cruise disrupted by the arrival of a new First Officer, Doctor, Chef and Steward. The holidaymakers are guaranteed to have a good time; whether the crew will survive the journey is another matter altogether.
The first Carry On in colour, Carry on Cruising is a surprisingly charming affair, largely because it sees Sid James playing against type. Sid is Capt Wellington Crowther, the ex-docker made good dismayed to find himself in charge of a rum bunch of officers new to the Happy Wanderer. Amongst the intake are superior First officer Marjoribanks (pronounced Marchbanks), played unctuously by Kenneth Williams; highly-strung Doctor Binns (Kenneth Connor); and gormless but cocky chef Haines (Lance Percival, something of an acquired taste), who is entirely suited for the job except for the violent seasickness he suffers from and the fact that he can’t cook.
In addition to the inevitable friction that arises between the crew, the film focuses on a small number of the ship’s travellers, namely Esma Cannon’s dotty old Miss Madderley, Ronnie Stevens as a perpetually drunk passenger who stays on board to drink the local booze whenever the ship winds up in port, and most of all blonde single girls Gladys Trimble and Florence Castle (Liz Fraser and Dilys Laye), out for a good time and, in Flo’s case at least, a suitable husband.
You might imagine that the standard Carry On rules apply and Sid will lust after one if not both of the girls; but whilst Flo does briefly imagine herself to be in love with the Captain, Sidney spurns her advances as he is old enough to be her father. If only the same happened in other films! It is left to Connor to do the wooing, and although he is his usual, weedy self, he is not particularly grating as he wears down Flo’s resistance.
Whilst Norman Hudis’ script is undoubtedly hit-and-miss, with the drunk and a colourless gym instructor both falling flat, when it hits the mark it can be very funny (a scene where Sid tries to psychoanalyse Ken but gets the tables turned on him springs to mind); and although there is the odd bit of innuendo and gratuitous undressing – nothing too naughty – it is good to note that both Fraser and Laye are given characters with more to do than look good and simper at the men.
Dilys Laye as the girl ready to fall at any man’s feet – especially after a few drinks – is especially impressive, and it is a shame she only made one more film, Carry On Spying, after this one. I particularly like her asking Crowther about the origin of his name: “Mother frightened by a boot?”
You never get the sense that the Happy Wanderer has really gone anywhere, and in a similar way the film never really goes on much of a journey, except for Dr Binn getting his woman. There is mention of Crowther going for a job on a Transatlantic route, but this doesn’t go far either, the film fizzling out with a 10th anniversary party for the Captain and the whole ship suffering the evils of Haines’ “International” cake. Carry On Cruising is by no means the funniest of the series, but it contains a good quota of laughs and is far from being the worst either. Good fun for those with a spare hour and a half on their hands and looking for a comedy to watch on cruise control.