Tag Archives: Carry On

Carry On Henry

WFTB Score: 9/20

The plot: The tale of two of Henry VIII’s lesser-known wives. French bride Marie’s nightly ritual of eating garlic before bedtime has an adverse effect on the King’s ardour, so the news that she is pregnant seems like a blessing; if she’s been unfaithful, he can dispose of her and chase women such as the bounteous Bettina. The only trouble is, the King of France is keen to reward Henry for his happy marriage – and itching for war at the first sign of any trouble.

Of all the Kings and Queens of England, Henry VIII is among the most colourful, remembered chiefly for his stout frame, red beard and Eight Wives. Eight? Oh yes. For, as Carry On Henry details, the King (Sid James) is most keen never to be without a wife, so as soon as the last one’s dispatched he moves straight on to Marie of France (Joan Sims). Marie is fair of face and figure, but not sweet of breath: she insists on eating garlic every night, putting Henry right off his stroke.

She refuses to stop eating the bulbs, he refuses to consummate the marriage, so each takes matters into their own hands: Henry tries to get the marriage annulled with the help of Chancellor Thomas Cromwell (Kenneth Williams) and Cardinal Wolsey (Terry Scott), while Marie takes a lover in the foppish shape of Sir Roger de Lodgerly (Charles Hawtrey). When Marie falls pregnant, it appears to offer Henry a way out – if Cromwell can torture a confession out of Roger, he’ll be free. However, King Francis of France offers to bless the new arrival with 50,000 gold crowns, an offer too good for Henry to refuse; and when a kidnap plot by Lord Hampton of Wick (Kenneth Connor) and an ever-so-slightly anachronistic Guy Fawkes (Bill Maynard) goes awry, it looks as though he’s stuck with his malodorous missus. But then Henry claps eyes on Bettina (Barbara Windsor), the Earl of Bristol’s daughter – and suddenly the hunt is on again!

The popular wisdom (as I may have said before) about Carry On films is that they start off black and white and twee, get into their swing along with the sixties, and start to decay with the new decade. This is undoubtedly true, but Henry at least represents a brief upswing in an otherwise downwards trend. It’s not that the film relies any less on innuendo than those released immediately before or after it, far from it; however, the ripeness of the subject and the lustiness of the King are a good fit for the Carry On team, whose historical parodies always brought out the best in both scriptwriter Talbot Rothwell and the dependable troupe of actors.

But as I say, the innuendo is there. While Henry still contains a decent smattering of really good lines – I particularly like Henry’s explanation of why he needs France’s money: ‘My mint has a hole in it’ – the clever bits of the script are possibly outweighed by the crass: boob jokes, bum jokes, the Sex Enjoyment Tax and the decidedly off-colour ‘hunting’ of Margaret Nolan’s buxom maid (Guy Fawkes is only roped because his name sounds slightly rude). And whilst the repeated sequences of Hawtrey being stretched on the rack, then put in the Iron Maiden, are paid off with funny physical gags, other repetitions are less welcome; Marie endlessly trots to and from the tower, and to be blunt, the idea of Terry Scott sticking a big scroll up his arse is only vaguely amusing the first time it happens.

Finally, while there are some lovely sparks of invention – the name Roger de Lodgerly is brilliant – the template for the film is ultimately one viewers were already used to: lecherous Sid is knocked out by voluptuous Babs, but his desires are ultimately thwarted.

Apart from the script, the other yardstick I always measure Carry Ons by is the quality of the cast and the uses they’re put to. By this reckoning, Henry does pretty well: Sid, Ken and Charles are really good, Joan (for once!) has a major role worthy of her talents, Babs does what Babs does, and others such as Kenneth Connor and Peter Butterworth, thankfully, have smaller parts*. I get a sense that Terry Scott isn’t greatly loved amongst Carry On fans, but while his big-boned bluster is undoubtedly a riff on Frankie Howerd’s act, I like him, largely (I admit) on the basis of his subsequent work in Danger Mouse. Jacques is inevitably missed, Bresslaw less so, and – because rejoicing in the fact has become a noble WFTB tradition – there’s no Jack Douglas. Hurrah!

I’ve seen the majority of the Carry On films at least once now, and although I wouldn’t describe Carry On Henry as anything more than a middling effort – it’s not up with Cleo, Cowboy, Khyber or (controversially, I know) Teacher – I certainly wouldn’t lump it in with the dreck (Girls, Behind, England, Emmannuelle). Rothwell and the team ride a fine line between sauce and smut, and whenever the film veers towards the latter it’s kept on path by a viable plot and capable performances. Regrettably, it wouldn’t stay that way for long.

NOTES: No sniggering at the back. It is an occupational hazard reviewing Carry On films that anything you say can be…er…taken the wrong way.

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Carry On Cruising

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.

Carry On England

WFTB Score: 3/20

The plot: In 1940, Captain Melly is sent to sort out a dysfunctional mixed battery which is in no fit state to be trusted with a real gun. With vocal Sergeant Major ‘Tiger’ Bloomer at his side, he plans to put a stop to the overfriendly relations between male and female personnel. Sergeants (and sweethearts) Willing and Able value the battery’s unique arrangement and come up with a series of sneaky countermeasures.

With the Battle of Britain looming on the horizon, the army needs its men and women to have their minds on the job – the job of defending the country, that is, not the one uppermost in the minds of the male squaddies and females of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) who work, rest and…er, play cheek by jowl in their experimental mixed-sex battery. Captain S. Melly (Kenneth Connor) is dispatched to get the rabble into fighting shape, but he quickly finds out that it’s going to be a very tricky job, because the men and women of the unit are unsurprisingly comfortable with their intimate arrangements.

The ploy of getting Sergeant Major Bloomer (Windsor Davies) to shout them into submission fails, largely because he’s got Private Ffoukes-Sharpe (Joan Sims) chasing him around the place; and Melly’s all-out war on cohabitation faces resistance from all sides, not least Sergeants Willing and Able (Judy Geeson and Patrick Mower), backed up by Bombardier Ready and Private Easy (Jack Douglas and Diana Langton). Events quickly escalate as Melly becomes more power-crazed and puts barbed wire between the barracks, while the lower ranks fight back with underhand – you might say dirty – tactics. Hopefully, the boys and girls will be able to pull together when Goering’s Luftwaffe arrives.

Many Carry On fans cite England as their least favourite film in the series, and it’s not hard to see why. For while it never plumbs the depths of the desperate Emmannuelle, that film at least had the vaguest notion of an edge, of sauce, of parody, however limply delivered. And it had Kenneth Williams. Carry on England is propelled by the combined star power of Kenneth Connor, weedy and blustering, Jack Douglas, twitching manfully away, and Windsor Davies, reprising his shouty role from sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum (with little Melvyn Hayes in tow).

There’s also Diana Langton coming on like a cut-price brunette Babs Windsor and Patrick Mower failing to exhibit a shred of comic prowess (he’s since found his niche as a lothario in Emmerdale), together with Joan Sims in a role which doesn’t call for much range and Peter Butterworth in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo. Judy Geeson doesn’t do an awful lot, but relatively speaking she’s a rare bright spot in a distinctly unimpressive cast list.

However, the real problem with England lies not with the cast but the dreadful script penned by David Pursall and Jack Seddon, which takes a semi-decent idea (the ‘Home Front’ kept Dad’s Army going for ten years, after all) and ruins the whole premise with unrelentingly juvenile jokes. For example, just consider how weak a joke calling your lead character ‘S.Melly’ is – it’s the sort of thing a 10-year-old would raise a weary eyebrow at. Barely more palatable are the weak puns dished out by Peter Jones’ bumptious Brigadier – yes, they’re deliberately poor, but they’re no less dull for being dull on purpose.

And things are no better away from the wordplay, since nearly all the movie’s comedy is based around the humiliations dished out to Melly: getting knocked over, losing his clothes, getting knocked into a bin, using joke soap, getting knocked into something very smelly, having to wear women’s clothes, getting knocked down by the anti-aircraft gun, and so on. There’s some laborious business around the digging of tunnels and two or three minutes of dubious storyline where the previously-useless troops miraculously down four enemy planes, and then a daft Churchill-related joke wraps it all up.

I’m genuinely struggling to think of a line that made me so much as smile, but I suppose ‘How did he get into our army?’ got close-ish. Which is scarcely a glowing recommendation. Oh, and lest I forget, there’s a short scene of toplessness from five ATS women which is neither sexy nor funny, and serves no purpose other than to show how desperate the producers were to offer something for filmgoers hardened up (if you will) by the Confessions Of… movies.

Perhaps the pithiest review of Carry On England is offered by the film’s DVD and video cases. Above the title are smiling caricatures of the stars of Carry On: Bernard Bresslaw, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Jim Dale and Charles Hawtrey: in this movie, all you get is a bit of Joan, and she’s not used extensively or particularly well (though that’s not altogether atypical). With such a horrible script, it’s hard to credit that England would have been any good with the whole crew alive and present; but the loss of nearly all the stars certainly plays its part in this film being but a tiny fraction as good as the series in its pomp. One, I’m afraid, for completists, masochists and insomniacs.

Carry On Doctor

WFTB Score: 11/20

The plot: Hapless Dr Kilmore struggles to maintain his composure, reputation and job in the face of the sneering authoritarianism of Dr Kenneth Tinkle and formidable matron Lavinia. As secret passions boil away in the wards, the majority of the inpatients do their best to recover; but when Kilmore is unjustly removed, they are forced to take direct action.

When the mind over matter techniques of dodgy faith dealer Francis Bigger (Frankie Howerd) can’t stop him landing straight on his coccyx, he earns a stay in the male ward of the local hospital, between committed malingerer and wife-avoider Mr Roper (Sid James) and Mr Barron (Charles Hawtrey), suffering a pregnancy on behalf of his uncomplaining wife. Comings and goings in the ward, especially Mr Biddle’s (Bernard Bresslaw) insistence on visiting female patient Mavis (Dilys Laye), soon send Bigger into a private room, where he mistakenly comes to believe he only has a week to live.

Amongst the staff, meanwhile, pretty Nurse Clarke (Anita Harris) has the hots for popular Dr Kilmore (Jim Dale), and in the bosom of Matron (Hattie Jacques) lies a passion for ruthless senior physician Dr Kenneth Tinkle (Ken Williams). However, the arrival of Sandra May (Barbara Windsor), her chest bursting with gratitude for Tinkle because he previously saved her life, upsets the apple cart. Against hospital rules, she’s caught in his room; so Tinkle and matron hatch a plan to literally make Kilmore the fall guy. Roper and Biddle are outraged by Kilmore’s unfair dismissal, and with a little help from Nurse Clarke they prepare a patients’ mutiny to make Matron and Tinkle pay for their haughty ways.

It may be because the quirks of the National Health Service are fondly mocked by the British; or it may be because TV show Dr Kildare and the Doctor films (directed by Ralph Thomas, Gerald’s brother), complete with portrait of James Robertson Justice, loom large; or it could be because the Carry Ons made hospitals their second home (starting with Nurse, they also made Matron and Again Doctor); but Carry On Doctor feels to me like the archetypal Carry On.

In particular, Kenneth Williams is right at home as the snooty, superior, yet still bungling senior doctor who rubs everyone up the wrong way. Everyone, that is, except the secretly lustful Matron, played beautifully by Jacques. The chemistry between them (see Jacques laughing when they bump noses) provides much-needed underpinning, given the unconvincing business of Babs‘ infatuation with Kenneth, Kilmore’s disgrace and redemption, and the relatively flimsy storylines given to the rest of the cast.

Since much of the ‘action’ of Doctor is by its very nature static (Sid James, recovering from a heart attack, stays in bed most of the time), it’s lucky that the film has a couple of tricks up its sleeve. Firstly, it benefits greatly from a barnstorming performance by Frankie Howerd, his high-pitched incredulity and eye-rolling sarcasm adding a new dimension to the regular Carry On cast (Dandy Nichols, too, has a funny cameo as the garrulous Mrs Roper).

Secondly and more importantly, while Talbot Rothwell’s script may be light on plot, it’s absolutely packed with gags: silly ones, like the fully bandaged man who turns out to be invisible (’Oo, I still don’t like the look of him!’ Tinkle says); saucy ones, like Lavinia throwing herself at Kenneth, the daffodil (an in-joke harking back to Nurse), or Kilmore’s adventures on the roof; or more traditional fare, like the chaotic weddding of Bigger and his deaf companion Chloe (Joan Sims, superb and underused as usual), conducted by an equally mutton chaplain. There’s easily enough genuinely clever material to forgive lazy jokes such as (as happens more than once) looking under a sheet and exclaiming ‘That’s a big one!’

Inevitably, the passage of time means that it’s impossible to look at some aspects of Carry On films in the way their original audience saw them. In particular, the treatment of Babs Windsor’s trainee nurse here is dolly-birdism of the worst kind. She receives the ultimate ‘Phwoooar!” from a leering ambulance driver, takes her clothes off to sunbathe, then promptly disappears from the film.By contrast, Jacques is called a ‘battleship’ and other older ladies are referred to as ‘cows.’ Matron’s rough-house treatment at the hand of the female patients is also more suited to army barracks than a hospital, though this is at least Equal Opportunities humiliation since Tinkle is treated no better (indeed, he’s almost tortured!). It’s not worth getting too hung up on such things, but there is a slight feeling that the film is designed exclusively for working-class men, a feeling you don’t get in superior series entries such as Don’t Lose Your Head or Carry On Up the Khyber.

But the film is what it is: and what it is, for the most part, is funny. Carry On Doctor isn’t the most exciting of the series by a long shot, but its hit-rate of jokes ensures that you simply don’t have time to get bored. Although they don’t all play as full a part as they might, all the gang are here – joyously, the film pre-dates Jack Douglas – and they are all on top form with Rothwell’s material. Carry On Doctor has a few ills of its own, but as long as you’re immune to rank sexism, it’ll cheer you up on a miserable day.

Carry on Constable

WFTB Score: 10/20

The plot: London’s thin blue line is stretched to the limit by a ‘flu epidemic, forcing one station to bring in a rum bunch of raw recruits. As the rookies get themselves into a series of disastrous scrapes and singularly fail to keep law or order, the put-upon sergeant – already fed up with his Inspector – wonders whether he’d be better off with an empty station.

When ‘flu hits the cop shop run by fish-loving Inspector Mills (Eric Barker), he puts the pressure on Sergeant Wilkins (Sid James) to come up with a solution, threatening to transfer him sharpish if he fails. Unfortunately, the solution that presents itself at the station’s front desk is less than promising: superior Stanley Benson (Kenneth Williams), convinced that phrenology holds the key to identifying criminal types; superstitious, cannily-named astrologer/astrologist Charlie Constable (Kenneth Connor); and upper-crust Tom Potter (Leslie Phillips), a man with an eye for the ladies but not necessarily much of a knack for policing.

The troublesome trio are joined by budgie-fancying Special Constable Gorse (Charles Hawtrey) and super-efficient WPC Gloria Passworthy (Joan Sims), who makes Sgt Moon (Hattie Jacques) suspicious and gives Constable Constable some very unprofessional ideas – so long as she’s a Virgo, that is.

As the new recruits are put up in their compact lodgings (the cells!) and put through their paces, they prove to be as much of a hindrance to Wilkins as a help, with Benson and Gorse dragging up, Some Like It Hot-style, to catch shoplifters and Potter spending more time giving relationship advice than preventing crime. But there are a bunch of bank robbers hiding out in the area, and with the pressure on to bring them – or anyone – to book, the new recruits spy a chance to prove to Mills that they’re not completely useless.

You could, if you squint in a certain way, see Carry On Constable as a precursor to Police Academy; however, though the plot is essentially similar, the films are worlds apart in their sensibilities, as indeed is this fledgling effort (number 4 in the series) to the later Carry On films. Other than a few tantalising glimpses of young lady flesh, and rather more male nudity, the comedy is of a much more genteel nature than the series’ 1970s efforts, which is a double-edged sword: there are sequences that come across as merely daft rather than funny, and a few that don’t work at all (mostly the dog-walking larks); but on the upside, the amount of care that writer Norman Hudis has put in to creating lively, funny and credible characters is something that Williams, James, Connor et al would surely have killed for in the later efforts.

Williams has an absolute ball as the snooty officer who thinks he knows everything but is constantly made to look foolish, whilst Leslie Phillips, admittedly playing to type, enjoys cosying up to Shirley Eaton’s confused young lover and anyone else in a skirt. Sid James, in his first Carry On (and pre-Babs chasing), is marvellously down-to-earth and Hawtrey shows just how good he could be before his parts were written around his drinking: ‘Priceless innuendo, how witty!’ he observes joyously during a raucous parade. On top of these game performances and those of Jacques, Sims and others, there are wonderful cameo appearances from the likes of Joan Hickson as a friendly old soak and Esma Cannon as (what else?) an old dear Benson unwillingly drags across the road.

Impressively, the film also manages to squeeze in a half-decent action story as by pure luck the novices stumble onto the robbers’ hideaway; plus, there’s a nicely cynical attitude towards work hierarchy (the inspector takes all the credit and none of the blame) and a clutch of rather sweet matches made during the happy ending – happy for everyone, that is, except Barker’s Mills, the authority figure who gets the short straw and is perhaps the least effective presence, though it’s equally likely that I’m not familiar enough with Eric Barker’s considerable body of work to appreciate his comparatively mannered style.

In my callow youth I associated older films, especially those in black and white, with a sort of corny, unsophisticated comedy (possibly based on snippets of Will Hay and Norman Wisdom films). Having seen movies such as Passport to Pimlico, The Ladykillers and Alastair Sim’s Scrooge, I now know what a simplistic view that was. I wouldn’t claim that Carry On Constable is the equal of any of those British greats; neither has it the lively spirit of the series in its mid- to late-sixties stride. However, it is charming whilst being winkingly daring and the cast’s energy knocks spots off the lethargic, lazy motions of the Carry Ons’ later years.

Carry On Again Doctor

WFTB Score: 8/20

The plot: Dr Nookey, having made a nuisance of himself in pursuit of glamorous patient Goldie Locks, is exiled to the poorly-named Beatific Islands to man a privately-funded hospital. He doesn’t find many patients and loses himself in drink and misery until his companion, Dr Gladstone Screwer, alerts him to a miracle weight-loss serum. Hot-footing it back to England, Dr Nookey opens his own incredibly successful clinic, much to the chagrin of former boss Mr Carver, who will use any means at his disposal to discover Nookey’s secret.

Though in no sense a formal sequel to any of the other medical Carry Ons, there is nonetheless an inevitable sense of familiarity about goings-on in Carry On Again Doctor. Kenneth Williams is once more the snooty superior, this time Frederick Carver, a surgeon desperate to get his healing hands on the bulging purse of widowed private patient Ellen Moore (Joan Sims). Jim Dale is another clumsy doctor – Dr Nookey, causing mayhem with Longhampton Hospital’s electricity supply as he tries to impress model Goldie Locks (Barbara Windsor). And Hattie Jacques is again tasked – not for the last time – with wearing a look of semi-permanent outrage as she fills her matron’s uniform.

When Nookey, inebriated by the naughty tricks of Dr Stoppidge (Charles Hawtrey), terrifies an already nervous patient and goes on the rampage in the hospital, Carver takes his chance to get rid of him and ingratiate himself with the wealthy widow at the same time; Nookey is exiled to the rain-and-windswept Beatific Islands where he encounters Sid James’s Dr Gladstone Screwer, head of Mrs Moore’s charitable mission. Gladstone has little to do but live up to his surname with wives Monday to Friday, but although the offer of a wife doesn’t cheer Nookey up much, the transformation of the proposed bride from an overweight heifer to a trim tease in a week immediately sets pound signs flashing in his eyes.

Nookey returns to set up a lucrative clinic in England with the assistance of Mrs Moore, who, along with Goldie, is booked in for treatment; Carver, returning from his own hellish trip to the Beatific Islands, learns of the arrangement with horror and sends Stoppidge out in drag to find out the serum’s secret; that secret, and the cash it attracts, also brings Gladstone to England.

Featuring the full complement of knowing nudge-winkery and bright performances from most of the series regulars, Carry On Again Doctor is an enjoyable addition to the series, if not one from the top drawer. Jim Dale’s Nookey is the main focus of the plot and whilst he is perfectly amiable, Dale is not quite up to the mark; to be fair to him the character is hopelessly overloaded, required to be simultaneously clever, clumsy, randy, devious, cheeky and handsome; but the performance reflects this, borrowing Norman Wisdom’s mannerisms one minute, copying Sid’s laugh the next, and having him aggressively pursue Goldie just after he has shied away from the prominent sexuality of Valerie Leon’s secretary.

As if in sympathy, the plot is more than usually shambolic, and whilst the jokes still come thick and fast, with a number of gems (such as Gladstone getting the football scores via jungle drums) buried amongst the usual ‘having it’/’fancy a bit’ innuendo, there is something amiss in the characters’ interactions. Ellen Moore’s interest in Dr Nookey is underplayed and crucially Goldie seems to dislike him throughout, making the sudden ending (one of the series’ weakest) all the harder to take.

The fact that Sid only turns up amongst the rest of the cast late on deprives the film of much of the Carry Ons trademark lechery, which I am increasingly coming to realise trades on the chemistry – however uncomfortable it may be to watch – that exists between Sid and Barbara. It should also be said that whilst Williams is superbly imperious (and spared the indignities of some of the later efforts), Sims and Hawtrey do occasionally seem a little unfocused. At least Peter Butterworth is limited to a (very funny) walk-on, and Jack Douglas is missing entirely.

Carry On Again Doctor, despite its title, manages to mix up its unthinkingly sexist formula with some good new gags, even if some of the characterisations are as unbalanced as the storyline. Wisely expanding the doctors’ horizons far outside of the wards, this is far from Talbot Rothwell’s worst script and the leading lights of the series do it justice, with production values to match (the X-ray effect is particularly well done). Cheerful, and not too cheap.

Carry On Emmannuelle

WFTB Score: 3/20

The plot: Emmannuelle Prevert, wife of the French ambassador to Britain, arrives to be with her husband only to find he is unwilling to make love to her. Luckily, she has willing replacements queuing up to provide satisfaction, and one admirer in particular who will go to any lengths to be with her.

Poor Carry Ons. At one time creators of beloved British comedies, by the late 1970s producer Peter Rogers’ and director Gerald Thomas’ fun-loving franchise had been supplanted, at least in the sauciness stakes, by the bawdy Adventures Of… and Confessions Of… series. Rather than rise above it all, Emmannuelle sees some venerable British actors parody European softcore porn (note the extra, lawyer-neutering ‘n’), dragging the whole Carry On series conclusively into the gutter, ignoring – as everyone should – 1992’s wretched Carry On Columbus.

It is not as if the idea is without potential, but writer Lance Peters has fashioned a script of such witlessness that the combined talents of Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor and Jack Douglas are powerless to save it. From the start, where our heroine initiates terrified mummy’s boy Theodore Valentine into the mile-high club, raising the nose on Concorde, the whole film feels shoddy and cheap.

Williams has a horrible time as the French Ambassador. The plot requires that he should be unable to make love due to a naked parachuting accident, so instead he spends his time weightlifting. For this he spends an inordinate amount of screen time either naked or semi-naked, and whilst a naked Kenneth Williams was probably never an enthralling sight, and admitting that he looks okay for fifty-plus, it is an indictment of the film’s ghastliness that we should be faced with his bare bum for laughs. Sadly, no effort is made by the script to use his better-known talents and even his best line, ‘I’m completely bent!’ is something of an in-joke.

Suzanne Danielle does a fair job in the title role, displaying perhaps not the facial attractiveness of Sylvia Kristel but comfortable with the nudity asked of her. Unfortunately she is no comedienne, though you would defy anyone to raise many laughs with the role; this Emmannuelle is so nymphomaniacal as to be mentally unhinged, which must have been more funny peculiar than funny ha-ha even in 1978.

Once arrived in London, the film has no idea what to do with Emmannuelle, so sends her around the city pleasuring everyone she meets: the prime minister, a judge, the butler, a football team, the referee, so on and so forth; she is followed by the besotted Theodore (Larry Dann, emerging from small roles in previous films to be utterly boring here) who later ineffectually threatens blackmail. The only point of interest, really, is that he doesn’t have to follow her into a clap clinic.

When Emmannuelle or her husband are not naked, the time is filled by Sims, Douglas, Connor and Peter Butterworth as the Embassy staff, swapping unfunny memories or puerile dialogue (Beryl Reid pops up as Mrs Valentine but says nothing funny); even worse, there are ‘comedy’ appearances by such sitcom stereotypes as a mincing, effeminate poof and two (count ’em!) head-wobbling Indians, one of whom is a doctor who gets Williams naked (again) and solves all his sexual problems by getting the nurse to show off her tits. I would be more measured, but I am imagining the mindset of the writer who considers all that to be film-worthy comedy.

The film concludes with the ambassador announcing to his delighted, pregnant wife that he has swapped her Pill for fertility pills, the plan being that motherhood will make her faithful; cut to the maternity hospital with six babies and a room chock-full of potential fathers, all cheering Emmannuelle along. This just about completes the list: Carry On Emmannuelle is racist, homophobic, insulting to women, and – worst offence of all – never funny. None of the Carry Ons were particularly PC, and some were very patchy, but most were at least occasionally amusing. The bareness of this film in that respect and many others is a very sad send-off.