Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

They carried on ....

More popular cinema, after those sci-fi, fantasy classics? Here's CARRY ON  ....

An hour and a half of bliss was spent just watching CARRY ON CLEO again, maybe the best of those British CARRY ON films ... which began in the late '50s with TEACHER, SERGEANT and NURSE (as the Rank DOCTOR films, twee by comparison, were running of steam) and hit their stride as the '60s developed - along with Hammer Films they were a Great British Institution and we dutifully saw most of them on general release, often groaning at the obvious jokes and gags. But in 1964 when I was new in London, something odd happened - the CARRY ONs gained a modicum of critical respectability - I remember that review by the esteemed Penelope Gilliatt in THE OBSERVER actually praising CARRY ON SPYING, in fact in was a rave review.

CARRY ON CLEO was more of the same, during their great years, with decent production values, followed by CARRY ON SCREAMING (Fenella Fielding: "Do you mind if I smoke?", Kenneth Williams: "Frying tonight"), CARRY ON COWBOY - that's the one mainly shot in a muddy field in Surrey where Joan Sims as saloon madam asks the Rumpo Kid (Sid James) for his gun and says "My, thats a big one" to which he retorts "I'm from Texas, maam, we all have big ones there...". CARRY ON CRUISING/CAMPING were fun too, and they poked fun at Henry VIII, The French Revolution etc. I didn't much care for the hospital ones and of course they began running out of steam during the late '60s/early 70s when their kind of innocent smut was no longer in vogue in the counterculture era; British cinema then was churning out CONFESSIONS OF ... and rubbish like PERCY. The witless CARRY ON LOVING in 1975 was pitifully cheap tat.
The flicks were scripted by Talbot Rothwell, produced by penny-pinching Peter Rogers, and directed by Gerald Thomas, as the films got tattier.  CARRY ON ...UP THE KHYBER in 1968 must have been the last good one, with some terrific gags and situations, not least when the wonderous Joan Sims as Lady Ruff-Diamond says "I'm a little plastered", an ad-lib as the ceiling collapses on them .... Kenneth Williams of course is The Khasi of Kalabar, Sid is Lord Ruff-Diamond looking forward to his tiffin, Charles Hawtry is Private Widdle, and they are all perfect. 
CLEO though is wonderful and works as a peplum as Kenneth's Caesar screams "Infamy, Infamy, they've all got it in for me", Amanda Barrie is a dizzy Cleo in her bath of asses milk, and Jim Dale and Kenneth Connor are the resourceful British slaves, who are sold to Roman matrons and have to drag up as Vestal Virgins; there's also Sheila Hancock as Senna Pod, a shrew wife (left, with the square wheel) , and Joan Sims is bliss again as Calpurnia, Caesar's wife. Joan was a stalwart, along with Hattie Jacques, Kenneth and Hawtry through all the series best ones - Barbara Windsor, Frankie Howerd and others popped in and out. The series of course were made for peanuts, the cast never earned very much - no repeat fees for the endless showings of them or compilations of their best bits, particularly on bank holidays, when cable channels here screen them all day (if only Barbara had a royalty for every time her bra flew off!).  
Carry On plate & BBC CD

I got Kenneth's autograph once, when he was doing a Shaw play with Ingrid Bergman in 1971; he had quite a theatrical career (working with the likes of Edith Evans, Maggie Smith, Orson Welles) before getting too identified with the series, and of course we love his ROUND THE HORNE radio shows too, particuarly those "Julian and Sandy" episodes, (now happily on cd). [Aside: I was on a train to Brighton on Christmas Eve 1986 with my christmas shopping, when I realised the man sitting opposite me was Kenneth's radio pal Hugh Paddick - I regret now I did not tell him how much those radio shows meant to us, as teenagers in Ireland]. Williams' diaries of course are compulsive reading .... The Carry Ons like the Hammers even had stamps issued celebrating them ...


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  2. I like this film. The beginning in England is a tad slow but once the story moves to Rome or Egypt it's fun.