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What a Carry On: Carry On Cowboy (1965)/ Carry On Screaming! (1966) ~ Reviews

July 13, 2015

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Believe it or not, but this, George’s Journal’s Carry On-athon (itself the centrepiece of the blog’s ‘Carry on Summer Season’), has reached the mid-’60s. But don’t be fooled. There’s no mini-skirts, beehive hairdos or Mini Coopers in sight; nopes, instead we’re going west (er, young man) and doing the monster mash. For, yes, that’s right, it’s time to relive, review, rate and rank both Carry On Cowboy and Carry On Screaming!. But what’ll be the verdict on these two fairly legendary firmaments of Blighty’s funny heritage? Will it be fangs for the memory or a horse backfiring? Read on and find out, peeps…

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How it works:

  1. The ‘Carry On-athon’ takes in all 29 cinematically released Carry On films, chronologically from Carry On Sergeant (1958) right through to Carry On Emmannuelle (1978), excluding the compilation-clip-comprising That’s Carry On! (1977) and Carry On Columbus (1992), whose inclusion in the original series might be said to be a bit tenuous
  2. The reviews consist of 10 categories or movie facets, the inclusion of which tend to define a Carry On film as a Carry On film (‘the regulars’; ‘the crumpet’; ‘the setting’; ‘the plot’; ‘sauciness’; ‘cross-dressing’; ‘catchphrases’; ‘character names’; ‘music’ and ‘overall amusement’), each of which are rated out of 10, thus giving the film in question a rating out of 100, which ensures all 29 films can be properly ranked – the ratings are made up of ‘Boggles’, after Sid Boggle, Sid James’s utterly iconic character from Carry On Camping (1969)
  3. There’s also an ‘Adjuster for each film’s rating (up to plus or minus 10 ‘Boggles’) to give as fair as possible a score according to its overall quality as a film.

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Once talked peace with the Sioux, but you can’t trust ’em – one minute it was peace on, the next peace off

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Directed by: Gerald Thomas; Screenplay by: Talbot Rothwell; Composer: Eric Rogers;
Country: UK; Certificate: PG; Running time: 91 minutes; Released: November 1965

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The regulars

Sid James; Kenneth Williams; Charles Hawtrey; Joan Sims; Jim Dale;
Bernard Bresslaw (first film); Peter Butterworth (first film)/ semi-regulars: Angela Douglas (first film);
Jon Pertwee; Percy Herbert (final film); Peter Gilmore; Margaret Nolan (first film)

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The crumpet

Angela Douglas; Edina Ronay; Margaret Nolan; Sally Douglas; Andrea Allan

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The setting

The Wild West; pastiching the Hollywood Western

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The plot

The arrival of gunslinger The Rumpo Kid (James) turns Stodge City upside down. Not only does he take over the saloon – much to its owner Belle’s (Joan Sims) amorous agreement – but he also kills people willy-nilly, including the useless sheriff (Pertwee). In desperation, the mayor Judge Burke (Williams) calls on the Washington authorities for a replacement marshal and, in a mix up, is sent Marshall P. Knutt (Dale), a British sewage engineer. In spite of his lack of credentials, Marshall gives the job a go and somehow survives Rumpo’s attempts on his life – one involving the local Native American tribe led by Chief Big Heap (Hawtrey). Although, the girl with whom he arrived in town (Douglas) seems far more competent, having sworn vengeance on whomever it was that shot dead her father – the former sheriff…

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Would you like sauce with that?

Despite offering fewer innuendos than its direct predecessor, Cowboy barely witnesses a fall on the sauce-o-meter. James’s outlaw may be the bad-dude-in-black Western archetype but he’s still a randy bugger, looking to ditch Sims for newcomer Douglas. And the movie takes little time to, well, sexualise the latter’s beauty, plonking her in a bath so he and we might ogle her and set up farcical unrequited lust for our Sid. Plus, despite the drop in double entendres, they still shoot from the hip: “So you’re Belle?”/ “Yeah, my intimate friends call me ‘Ding Dong’”/ “I’d like to give you a clang some time”. Fantastic.

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Cross-dressing to impress?

To be fair, when you have the plummy and effete-as-anything Charles Hawtrey dressed up as a Native American (and Bernard Bresslaw making his series debut similarly attired), not to mention the excellent Western clobber that the rest of the cast dons (who could forget James’s black-clad villain or Sims’ dazzling dresses making the most of her decolletage?), you’d think you wouldn’t miss the complete lack of drag action in this Carry On entry. And, quite frankly, you don’t. Nonetheless, a low score here is unavoidable, I’m afraid.

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Catchphrase count

Aroused growl (James): 5/ ‘Yak-yak-yak’ (James): 4/ ‘Oh, hello!’: (Hawtrey): 2

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Marvellous monikers

The Rumpo Kid/ Johnny Finger (James); Judge Burke (Williams); Big Heap (Hawtrey);
Marshall P. Knutt (Dale); Little Heap (Bresslaw); Annie Oakley (Douglas); Sheriff Albert Earp (Pertwee)

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Plum notes or bum notes?

An excellent effort from Eric Rogers. The Carry On scorer extraordinaire plays a significant role in making the viewer feel like they’ve been thrown slap-bang into the Old West – and occasionally exaggerates things to remind us this is a loving parody poking fun at the Western, not the real thing. Of particular note is the fact that Cowboy contains two songs, both written by Rogers. The first, Carry On Cowboy, is an opening title theme (a perfect home-on-the-range sort of wistful ballad); the second, This Is The Night For Love, is performed onscreen by Douglas in an attempt to seduce Sid’s Rumpo.

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Do carry on or titter ye not?

Fair dos, Cowboy is sometimes guilty of substituting the funnies for faithfulness to genre parody, but it also features some unforgettable Carry On characters and moments. There’s Dale’s loveable, slapstick-tastic semi-lead; Williams’ prudish, hopeless ‘Wright-Burke’ of a mayor; Davy Kaye’s shameless coffin maker gleefully taking advantage of his town’s high body count; and, best of all, Hawtrey’s ludicrous be-headdressed lush (his introduction emerging from a ‘tepee toilet’, complete with flushing sound effect, is priceless). When it’s on song, Cowboy certainly hits the high notes.

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Adjuster: +8

The best Western parody you’ll see this side of Hollywood. Containing seaside postcard humour. And Brits putting on Yank accents. And Charles Hawtrey as a Native American chief. Cowboy is so good that at times you forget you’re not watching a real Western. For a few seconds at least. Yes, it could be funnier, but for me it’s every bit as good as that other Western pastiche that came out in its year, Cat Ballou – and that won Lee Marvin an Oscar. Where was Sid James’s BAFTA? All right, don’t answer that…

Total Boggles:

80/ 100

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The best bit

The high-noon showdown between Rumpo and Knutt – a rare instance of a real climax in a Carry On and when the film’s affectionate parody crosses over into genuine genre homage; the twist of Dale’s would-be-hero besting Sid’s villain via the drains is marvellous (so long as you overlook the fact such a Western town would surely never possess an underground sewage system)

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The best line

Williams: “My great-grandfather came over here on the Mayflower – he was the original Burke.
He married into the Wright family and became a Wright-Burke”/
Butterworth:  “The whole family are Wright-Burkes, Marshal”/ Dale: “Charming”

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Trivia

Perhaps making its fine realisation of Stodge City even more impressive, Cowboy contains no sets previously built for a Western movie (unlike Carry On Cleo’s use of sets originally constructed for 1963’s Cleopatra); its Western town was entirely created on the Pinewood Studios backlot – although the main street features a turn at both ends to disguise the fact it’s not surrounded by open country

New to major cinema roles as she was at the time, Angela Douglas claims she was so frightened prior to performing her saloon tune (in her skimpy showgirl costume) that she had to down two brandies beforehand and be practically pushed on camera by Joan Sims

Composer Eric Rogers makes a rare onscreen cameo as the pianist in Belle’s/ Rumpo’s saloon band

Believe it or not, Cowboy marks the film debut – as a stunt rider – of Richard O’Brien, whom would later conceive and star in the iconic cult movie musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and much later host the just as cult British activity-gameshow The Crystal Maze (1990-95).

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Frying tonight!

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Directed by: Gerald Thomas; Screenplay by: Talbot Rothwell; Composer: Eric Rogers;
Country: UK; Certificate: PG; Running time: 93 minutes; Released: August 1966

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The regulars

Kenneth Williams; Charles Hawtrey; Joan Sims; Jim Dale; Bernard Bresslaw; Peter Butterworth/
semi-regulars: Angela Douglas; Jon Pertwee (final film); Tom Clegg; Sally Douglas

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The crumpet

Fenella Fielding; Angela Douglas; Sally Douglas

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The setting

Edwardian England; pastiching Hammer horror films and gothic horror in general

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The plot

 Young, attractive Doris (Douglas) is kidnapped in a forest one night by a neanderthal man. Her boyfriend Albert (Dale) accompanies local police detective Sidney Bung (Harry H. Corbett) and his underling (Butterworth) as they investigate the scene. While there, they come across a mansion. Shown in by a tall, malevolent butler (Bresslaw), they meet the owner Dr Watt (Williams), whom tries to dampen their suspicions despite almost giving away the fact he’s ‘undead’ and powered by electricity. In fact, he’s an evil scientist whom, with his seductive sister (Fielding), is responsible for Douglas’s and many other women’s disappearances (via the neanderthal aide) in order to vitrify their bodies and sell them on as shop mannequins. Can Bung and co. crack the case and defeat the spooky duo?

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Would you like sauce with that?

While London was swinging in the summer of ’66 (and England winning the World Cup, of course), the Carry On team were recreating a haunted Edwardian England, but Screaming! certainly doesn’t restrict itself to the social mores of that era. In keeping with the times, it’s possibly the most permissive entry in the series thus far; the sitting-chair chat between Corbett and Fielding bristling with sexual frisson thanks to clever-clever and subtle-as-a-sledge-hammer innuendo, while later on the former forces Butterworth to check out both cheeks of a dummy’s posterior to make sure it’s not that of Angela Douglas. It makes sense in the movie. More or less.

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Cross-dressing to impress?

Following the total lack of a drag act in Carry On Cowboy, the gang deliver the goods here thanks to a good 15 or so minutes’ worth of cross-dressing from Peter Butterworth as he’s ordered to impersonate a woman by Corbett’s detective in a desperate attempt to lure and catch red-handed the neanderthal believed to have kidnapped Douglas. The plan backfires – but of course – yet, because it leads into the film’s climax, we get an extended period of the very masculine-shaped Butterworth crashing about pursued by monsters while decked out in a period dress and petticoat et al. Not bad at all.

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Catchphrase count

‘Oh, hello!’ (Hawtrey): 1

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Marvellous monikers

Detective Sergeant Sidney Bung (Corbett); Dr Orlando Watt (Williams);
Valeria Watt (Fielding); Dan Dann (Hawtrey); Sockett (Bresslaw);
Detective Constable Slobotham (Butterworth); Oddbod (Tom Clegg)

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Plum notes or bum notes?

It’s hard to fault Eric Rogers’ work on Screaming!. The movie’s music is best recalled for arguably the most satisfying and most memorable eponymous Carry On title song. Combining with the jolly opening credits (which pleasingly wobble whenever the screams erupt in the song), it sets the tone for the film to come perfectly. However, Rogers’ score is just as good, if not better, featuring his usual sonorous flourishes to make prominent gags even funnier and finely pastiching the whole history of horror cinema’s reliance on sinister notes and dissonance to help evoke terror.

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Do carry on or titter ye not?

To do film parody well you have to strike a balance between recreating the genre you’re taking the p*ss out of and being funny. Screaming! gets this balance practically spot on. While the look, feel and atmos (mockingly so, the latter, of course) is always reminiscent of turn-of-the-century-set Hammer horror, there’s a constant stream of solid comedy; the cracking Corbett henpicked by Sims’ brilliant battlexe wife and Williams’ effetely insane, pun-making villain, just for starters. But, at its best, Screaming! gets quality humour precisely out of the horror pastiche – Bresslaw’s Lurch-esque butler and the fantastic Fielding turning on Corbett by literally letting off smoke when she asks if he minds her smoking.

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Adjuster: +8

Easily one of the very best of the series’ many genre parodies and historical romps,
Screaming! runs everything including Hammer horror, Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde,
House Of Wax, Frankenstein and The Addams Family through the Carry On circuit,
resulting in an electrifyingly satisfying and often very funny (far from ghoulish) delight.

Total Boggles:

83/100

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The best bit

There’s many to choose from (Williams’ climatic demise and ‘Frying tonight!’, Corbett and Sims’ vitriolic exchanges and the former’s amorous encounter with Fielding), but I’m going to go for the superb scene in which our intrepid heroes first meet Williams and the following dialogue occurs…

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The best line

Corbett: “A young lady has disappeared and we’re anxious to trace her whereabouts”/ Williams: “Oh? Whereabouts?”/ Corbett: “’Ereabouts”/ Dale: “At 10 o’clock”/ Corbett: “Or thereabouts”/ Butterworth: “In this vicinity”/ Corbett: “Or roundabouts”/ Butterworth: “We’re police officers”/ Dale: “Or layabouts”

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Trivia

Surprisingly, producer Peter Rogers didn’t cast Harry H. Corbett as Sidney Bung in place of de facto company lead Sid James because the latter was tied up with other work, but because he’d always wanted to feature Corbett in one of his movies and felt he’d be the perfect fit for Screaming!’s starring role

To lure his services away from the biggest sitcom of the age Steptoe And Son, Corbett was paid £12,000 – a then record fee for a Carry On; speaking of the aforementioned jewel in the BBC’s comedy crown, a few notes from its unmistakeable theme can be heard when, in his monster-transformed state, Corbett rides on the horse-drawn trap to the clothes shop in order to retrieve the Douglas ‘dummy’

Charles Hawtrey was cast as the lavatory attendant Dan Dann at the last minute (the role was originally to be played by Sydney Bromley, whom had portrayed farmer Sam Houston in Cowboy), possibly because American distributors pointed out how popular Hawtrey’s appearances in the series were over the pond; the reason for his original dropping for this movie has never been gleaned

In the opening titles, the performance of the theme song is credited to ‘Anon’; for many years Carry On fans speculated the singer was Screaming! star and former pop heart-throb Jim Dale, but it was actually performed by Ray Pilgrim – although the version that was released as a single was sung by Boz Burrell (later to become bassist for the legendary rock bands King Crimson and Bad Company).

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Carry On Ranking

(All out of 100; new entries in blue)

1. Carry On Cabby (1963) ~ 85

2. Carry On Screaming! (1966) ~ 83

3. Carry On Cowboy (1965) ~ 80

4. Carry On Cleo (1964) ~ 68

5.  Carry On Nurse (1959) ~ 65

6. Carry On Constable (1960) ~ 63

7. Carry On Spying (1964) ~ 62

8. Carry On Jack (1963) ~ 61

9. Carry On Cruising (1962) ~ 60

10. Carry On Sergeant (1958) ~ 58

11. Carry On Teacher (1959) ~ 56

12. Carry On Regardless (1961) ~ 55

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Keep calm,
the Carry On reviews
will, yes, carry on

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ July 2015

July 1, 2015

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In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye ~
The Ballad Of Cat Ballou/ They Can’t Make Her Cry (1965)¹

Dusty Springfield ~ (They Long To Be) Close To You (1967)

Richard Attenborough and Rex Harrison ~ I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It (1967)²

Creedence Clearwater Revival ~ Run Through The Jungle (1970)

The Free Design ~ Can You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street? (1970)

John Kongos ~ He’s Gonna Step On You Again (1971)³

Can ~ Vitamin C (1972)

Uriah Heep ~ Circle Of Hands (1972)

Maureen McGovern ~ We May Never Love Like This Again (1974)4

Paul Nicholas ~ Just Good Friends (1983)5

Sylvester Levay ~ Theme from Airwolf (1984)

Fairground Attraction ~ Find My Love (1988)

Transvision Vamp ~ Baby I Don’t Care (1989)

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¹ As featured – and sung by its performers – in the Jane Fonda/ Lee Marvin comedy Western Cat Ballou (1965)

² From the soundtrack of the notorious Hollywood musical box-office bomb Doctor Dolittle (1967)

³ The original version of the tune that The Happy Mondays, in the late ’80s/ early ’90s Acid House era, covered and made their own as the re-titled Step On (1990)

4 The chart hit that served as the romantic theme for ’70s disaster movie deluxe The Towering Inferno (1974)

5 A synth-tastic full version of the theme tune to the popular BBC sitcom of the same name (1983-86)

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What a Carry On: Carry On Spying (1964)/ Carry On Cleo (1964) ~ Reviews

June 22, 2015

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That’s right, like a bad apple or a juicy pair… er, sorry, a juicy pear, the Carry On-athon is back after a break, mes amis. Yes, it’s time to immerse ourselves once more in the innuendo-flushed frolicking of Sid, Kenny, Charlie and co. as they take us into the espionage universe of the mid-’60s and the political machinations of First Century BC Rome. Or at least something like them.

But what will  be the results of George’s Journal reviewing this couple of comedy flicks – how will they be rated and ranked? Read on, peeps, it’s far from top secret…

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How it works:

  1. The ‘Carry On-athon’ takes in all 29 cinematically released Carry On films, chronologically from Carry On Sergeant (1958) right through to Carry On Emmannuelle (1978), excluding the compilation-clip-comprising That’s Carry On! (1977) and Carry On Columbus (1992), whose inclusion in the original series might be said to be a bit tenuous
  2. The reviews consist of 10 categories or movie facets, the inclusion of which tend to define a Carry On film as a Carry On film (‘the regulars’; ‘the crumpet’; ‘the setting’; ‘the plot’; ‘sauciness’; ‘cross-dressing’; ‘catchphrases’; ‘character names’; ‘music’ and ‘overall amusement’), each of which are rated out of 10, thus giving the film in question a rating out of 100, which ensures all 29 films can be properly ranked – the ratings are made up of ‘Boggles’, after Sid Boggle, Sid James’s utterly iconic character from Carry On Camping (1969)
  3. There’s also an ‘Adjuster for each film’s rating (up to plus or minus 10 ‘Boggles’) to give as fair as possible a score according to its overall quality as a film.

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I’ve always wanted to see Vienna before I die”/
With a bit of luck, you’ll do both!

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Directed by: Gerald Thomas; Written by: Talbot Rothwell and Sid Colin; Composer: Eric Rogers;
Country: UK; Certificate: PG; Running time: 84 minutes; Released: June 1964; Black & White

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The regulars

Kenneth Williams; Charles Hawtrey; Barbara Windsor (first film); Jim Dale/ semi-regulars:
Bernard Cribbins; Dilys Laye; Eric Barker; Judith Furse (final film); Renée Houston; Sally Douglas

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The crumpet

Barbara Windsor; Dilys Laye; Sally Douglas; Marian Collins; Jane Lumb

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The setting

The espionage world of the ’60s; sending up the decade’s spy-fi culture

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The plot

A chemical formula is stolen from British Intelligence by its nemesis STENCH (the Society for the Total Extinction of Non-Conforming Humans), but with all of Blighty’s best operatives tied up around the world, the Chief (Barker) reluctantly turns to an incompetent agent (Williams) to oversee a trio of new recruits (Cribbins, Windsor and Hawtrey). A lead takes the gang to Vienna where, after ineptly connecting with a capable British spy (Dale), they track down the thief, but he’s been fatally wounded by his superiors – after passing on the formula. Moving on to Algiers and although woefully trying to mix in with the locals, the Brits manage to snatch back the intel, only to be immediately captured. Destroying the formula but recording its contents to memory, they’re then transported to STENCH’s top secret HQ…

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Would you like sauce with that?

The fact the series wilfully and wholeheartedly embraces the spy-fi phenomenon here signals that the Swinging Sixties had pretty much arrived, but not quite for the Carry Ons. To wit, despite the ‘sex for dinner, death for breakfast’ norms of the espionage genre, Spying’s perhaps unexpectedly a little coy in its naughtiness. Its redemption here though is Babs Windsor’s debut appearance, the movie making the most of her looks, body and would-be ‘Bow Bells belle’ persona, highlights of which being her belly dancer outfit and her boobs getting in the way of Cribbins helping her on with a shoulder holster.

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Cross-dressing to impress?

Merely three films into his Carry On run and Jim Dale shows true comic versatility in Spying. Often to be used as a mock-matinee idol foil to the other leads, here he’s not just the only competent British spy on show (fittingly 007 handsome as he is), but he also puts on an ever so slightly disturbing drag act when dressed as an Austrian streetwalker in making contact with one of the gang – disturbing because he makes for a rather convincing woman. Later on, Bernard Cribbins is far less convincing, but amusingly so, as a belly-dancing pal for Babs as they try to steal back the formula from a randy enemy operative.

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Catchphrase count

‘Stop messing about!’ (Williams): 3; ‘Oh hello!’ (Hawtrey): 1; ‘Cockney cackle’ (Windsor): 1

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Marvellous monikers

Desmond Simkins/ ‘Red Admiral’ (Williams); Charlie Bind/ ‘Yellow Peril’ (Hawtrey);
Daphne Honeybutt/ ‘Brown Cow’ (Windsor); Harold Crump/ ‘Blue Bottle’ (Cribbins);
The Fat Man (Eric Pohlmann); Milchman (Victor Maddern); Dr Crow (Judith Furse)

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Plum notes or bum notes?

Given the film’s pastiching, Eric Rogers is given the opportunity to have some real fun this time out, but that he does an effective job lies in the fact he doesn’t overindulge himself. While the Vienna scenes with their deliberately noir-ish vibe invites him to throw in some Third Man-nodding zither-like cues and the Algiers setting invites North African touches, he wisely avoids lampooning John Barry’s iconic ‘Bond sound’, instead settling for a mock-murky-espionage-suggesting melody for the main theme. There’s also a couple of tunes, Too Late and The Magic Of Love, sung by femme fatale Dilys Laye.

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Do carry on or titter ye not?

Despite sequences when it does misfire (the gang attempting to gain entry to an Algerian brothel and their inexplicably torturous ride on a conveyor belt in STENCH HQ), Spying does raise a fair number of laughs. Williams is always winning in another of his useless administrator roles (cf. Cruising) – indeed, his bent pistol gag is shameless and ridiculous but tittersome – yet much of the funniest stuff arises from the presence of Babs Windsor and her decolletage, which given how ample it and her comedic talents are maybe isn’t surprising. She makes a fine debut and was quite clearly going to be a Carry On star.

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Adjuster: -2

The final black-and-white effort, Spying benefits from its monochrome film noir moments, but a splash of bold colour may have lent considerable oomph to the villain’s lair finale. Nonetheless, although a little demure compared to the Carry Ons just around the corner, it holds up decently – not least alongside those other ‘British’ Bond spoofs, the Austin PowersJohnny Englishes and 1967’s Casino Royale.

Total Boggles:

62/ 100

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The best bit

Williams meets and briefs the trainee agents who’ll be under his command (Cribbins, Windsor and Hawtrey), leaving the audience – if not him – with deep misgivings about Britain’s security in its hour of need; includes the pearler of the line to be read below

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The best line

Hawtrey: “Agent Bind”/ Williams: “James?”/ Hawtrey: “No, Charlie”/
Williams: “Number?”/ Hawtrey: “Double-0… Ohh”/ Williams: “0-what?”/
Hawtrey: “Well, I’ve no idea. They looked at me and said ‘Uh-oh… ohh”/ Williams: “I see what you mean”

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Trivia

Hawtrey’s character was originally going to be called ‘Charlie Bond, Agent 001½’ until Bond producers Albert R ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and Harry Saltzman threatened to sue Peter Rogers; the film’s original poster had to be altered as well, owing to it bearing too much of a resemblance to that of the previous year’s From Russia With Love

Co-screenwriter Sid Colin was most famous for working on the sitcoms The Army Game (1957-59), in which both Carry On alumni William Hartnell and Bernard Bresslaw were cast regulars (Hartnell’s character proving very similar to his in Sergeant) and Up Pompeii (1969-70), on which he also collaborated with Talbot Rothwell

This would be Eric Barker’s last Carry On for 18 years – he’d finally return for Carry On Emmanuelle; Bernard Cribbins completed his two-movie-only stint in the series with Spying – that is, if you discount his appearance in the execrable Carry On Columbus, which was released a full 38 years later

Eric Pohlmann provided the voice of Bond nemesis and SPECTRE chief Blofeld in both From Russia With Love and Thunderball (1965), and played a waiter in The Third Man. He went on to appear in The Return Of The Pink Panther (1975), in which he also played a character called The Fat Man.

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Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!

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Directed by: Gerald Thomas; Screenplay by: Talbot Rothwell; Composer: Eric Rogers;
Country: UK; Certificate: PG; Running time: 88 minutes; Released: November 1964

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The regulars

Sid James; Kenneth Williams; Charles Hawtrey; Kenneth Connor; Joan Sims; Jim Dale/
semi-regulars: Amanda Barrie (final film); Jon Pertwee (first film); Peter Gilmore; Sally Douglas

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The crumpet

Amanda Barrie; Julie Stevens; Tanya Binning; Sally Douglas; Wanda Ventham

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The setting

Ancient Rome and Egypt; sending up 1963’s Cleopatra and ‘sword-and-sandal’ epics in general

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The plot:

Sick of the wet weather, Julius Caesar (Williams) and Marc Antony (James) return home early from their British campaign, taking with them captured slaves including the cowardly Hengist (Connor) and the brave Horsa (Dale). Back in Rome, Caesar is reunited with his battleaxe wife Calpurnia (Sims) and her dotty, randy second-sighted father Seneca (Hawtrey). Saved from an attempt on his life by Hengist – although actually inadvertently due to Horsa’s derring-do – Caesar appoints the former his personal bodyguard as he travels to Egypt to seal an alliance with the delectable queen Cleopatra (Barrie), on the recommendation of Antony, who’s already sampled her ample delights. However, lusting after power as well as his lover, Antony in fact aims to bump off Caesar there and seize Rome – and Cleo – for himself.

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Would you like sauce with that?

After toying with its audience for years, the series finally delivers in the sauce stakes here – the bold  colour, costumes and sets of this Carry On are complemented by brasher, fruitier and franker comedy. Taking its cues from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Antony And Cleopatra, Rothwell’s script invites James to finally fully develop his lothario persona, Williams to enter full fuss-pot bureaucrat mode and Hawtrey to twist his persona into his familiar, irreverent semi-sexual deviant; all accompanied by Barrie’s air-head sex-pot empress. There’s only one way this flick’ll end – as a good old bedroom farce.

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Cross-dressing to impress?

Not much to report here really. Apart from the bit when escaped Brit slaves Connor and Dale hide from their pursuers among the comely Vestal Virgins in their sacred temple, forcing them for a few seconds to don, yes, virginal white robes and for the former to put on his desperate drag act (cf. Carry On Cabby). Mind you, one might suggest that’s made up for by all the togas, tunics, swords, sandals, Egyptian head-pieces and flimsy dresses on display.

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Catchphrase count

‘Yak yak yak!’ (James): 3; ‘Oh hello!’ (Hawtrey): 2; ‘Corrr!’ (Connor): 1

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Marvellous monikers

Hengist Pod (Connor); Senna Pod (Sheila Hancock); Marcus and Spencius
(Gertan Klauber and Warren Mitchell); Sosages (Tom Clegg)

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Plum notes or bum notes?

Surely Cleo’s least showy tenet, Rogers’ score does the job fine, but there’s barely a memorable melody to be heard. Fair dues, though, in contributing to the onscreen pastiche, the moments nodding to epic cinema are soundtracked by suitable mock orchestral bombast, full of swelling brass. Plus, there’s a decent would-be love theme in there for the first meeting of Antony and Cleo.

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Do carry on or titter ye not?

Contrasted with Carry On Jack (the first period effort), Cleo has a good, ahem, stab at balancing the ancient epic plot norms and production values with the comedy; although, contrasted with some series entries to come, one’s left feeling it could be funnier. Having said that, it nattily takes the p*ss out of not just Shakespeare and Cleopatra, but also 1959’s Ben-Hur and 1960’s Spartacus (check out the galley scene and the slave revolts), while Rothwell’s finding his groove and the leads their much loved personas. Plus, Jon Pertwee, Sheila Hancock and Warren Mitchell all make cracking cameos.

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Adjuster: +3

Iconic and highly popular, Cleo’s a watershed Carry On – the first in which Sid and Kenny properly share lead characters of equal standing, the first in an unbroken string of five period parodies and the first with that trademark brasher, franker tone. It’s littered with historical inaccuracies (it happily admits to ‘taking liberties with Cleopatra’), but it’s also a Roman romp that rarely rests on its laurels.

Total Boggles:

68/100

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The best bit

Cleo presents Sid (Antony) with her poisonous asp, suggesting its use to assassinate Williams’ Caesar, only for the misunderstanding Sid to take it and bite off its head – complete with a marvellously gratuitous sound effect

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The best line

Sims: “Seneca is known throughout Rome as a truly great sage”/ Hawtrey: “Yes, and I know my onions”/ Williams: “I wish you’d been in Britain – they know what to do with sage and onions there!”

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Trivia

Clearly inspired by the success and notoriety of the 1963 Cleopatra epic, Cleo was able to make good use of the sets built at Pinewood Studios for the former film but abandoned when its production upped sticks for Rome’s Cinecittà Studios

Speaking of Cleopatra, in an echo of the controversy generated by Spying’s original poster, Twentieth Century Fox filed for copyright infringement against Cleo’s production over its original artwork blatantly copying that of the Burton-Taylor opus – to be fair, Fox had more than a point

It’s no wonder Cleo set something of a template for the next few Carry Ons, for in a year jam-packed with Hollywood blockbusters (The Sound Of Music, Doctor Zhivago and Thunderball among them), it finished 12th on the list of UK box-office hits

Returning to the Carry On company  after a four-film break (following a rap on the knuckles for an affair with a Pinewood technician during former movies), Joan Sims would now go on to appear in every one of the series until its conclusion with Carry On Emmannuelle (1978)

Kenneth Williams’ notorious and wonderful ‘Infamy! Infamy!’ line (see opening of review) wasn’t actually the work of Talbot Rothwell; remembering it from the radio series Take It From Here, the scribe sought the permission of that show’s writers Frank Muir and Dennis Nordern (whom would later become forever recalled for hosting ITV’s gag-real favourite It’ll Be All Right On The Night) in order to feature it.

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Carry On Ranking

(All out of 100; new entries in blue)

1. Carry On Cabby (1963) ~ 85

2. Carry On Cleo (1964) ~ 68

3.  Carry On Nurse (1959) ~ 65

4. Carry On Constable (1960) ~ 63

5. Carry On Spying (1964) ~ 62

6. Carry On Jack (1963) ~ 61

7. Carry On Cruising (1962) ~ 60

8. Carry On Sergeant (1958) ~ 58

9. Carry On Teacher (1959) ~ 56

10. Carry On Regardless (1961) ~ 55

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Keep calm,
the Carry On reviews
will, yes, carry on

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ June 2015

June 2, 2015

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In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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The Brian Fahey Orchestra ~ At The Sign Of The Swingin’ Cymbal (1960)¹

The Shangri-Las ~ Out In The Streets (1965)

Crispian St. Peters ~ The Pied Piper (1966)

Vanilla Fudge ~ You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1968)

Frankie Howerd and June Whitfield ~ Up Je T’Aime (1969)²

Gianni Morandi ~ Parla Più Piano (1972)³

Blue Swede ~ A Song For You (1973)

Frank Zappa ~ Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow (1974)

Nina Simone ~ Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter (1974)

Tom Scott ~ Gotcha! (Theme from Starsky & Hutch) (1976)

A Flock Of Seagulls ~ Space Age Love Song (1982)

Cast of Bread ~ Theme from Bread (1986)

David Foster ~ Water Fountain (1987)4

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¹ The original instrumental that owes its iconoclasm to becoming the unmistakeable theme of disc jockey Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman’s Pick Of The Pops radio show, which has run on various stations since 1955 (Freeman taking the reins from 1961 onwards)

² The British comic pair’s delicious spoof of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s classic naughty pop hit Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus, which was released earlier the same year

³ An Italian-language version of the hit song Speak Softly, Love, which – written by the film’s composer Nino Rota (and whose melody fittingly bears resemblance to those from at least two operas) – appeared in the Mafia movie epic The Godfather (1972)

4 From the soundtrack of the über-’80s romcom classic The Secret Of My Success (1987)

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What a Carry On/ Legends: Sid, Kenny, Charlie and Hattie (Part 1) ~ Sid James

May 15, 2015

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Sid James:

the bloke with the most?

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One of my favourite ever tweets is the work of a chap named @davelee1968, whom back in March 2012 shared with the world that he was “Watching Sid James riding a GoKart on a pier being chased by an angry mob and women in bikinis. It’s what makes Britain Great.” For anyone particularly au fait with the Carry On series, this Tweeter was quite clearly (if a little ironically) referring to the final scene in Carry On Girls (1973), in which Sid’s beauty pageant in the fictitious seaside resort of Fircombe-on-Sea has gone disastrously, er, tits up, thus he’s scarpering from the scene – as well as chasing after a similarly escaping Barbara Windsor (of course).

To be honest, however familiar you are with the Carry Ons, it’s an enduring and fitting image. It’s perfectly representative of the Sid James of the public consciousness – the middle-aged; sex-driven; Babs Windsor-pursuing; unavoidably rather ugly; absurdly, nay inexplicably lucky; cheeky Cockney bloke. But is it actually fitting? Who was the real Sid James? In this first of four articles to look at the quartet of fantastic, fascinating Carry On cast greats (which will see each of them enter this blog’s ‘Legends’ lounge) we look at the series’ leading man – and answer the question: was Sid James the bloke with the most? The bloke who got the most? The bloke who, like his persona, enjoyed it all most?

Before we start, it may be only fair to warn you that, if you have always assumed the Sid of the Carry Ons was more or less the Sid of real life, you’ll be in for a few surprises. Indeed, let’s get surely the biggest surprise out of the way first. Sid James wasn’t a Londoner. He wasn’t even an Englishman. Or a Brit. In fact, he didn’t set foot on UK soil until he was 33-years-old. Yes, really.

He was born in May 1913 under the name Soloman Joel Cohen to (yes, you got it) Jewish parents and was mostly brought up by relatives in the deprived Hillbrow neighbourhood of South Africa’s Johannesburg, while his parents toured a vaudeville act. Probably unsurprisingly, given the rough nature of his early surroundings, he liked to talk in later life of having tried out different masculine professions, such as a boxer and a diamond cutter, but possibly suggesting he developed an eye for the ladies from the very beginning, he also tried his hand as a dance tutor at a studio he ran himself, but was most successful at training and then working as a hairdresser at a salon his mother set up on her return to town.

Indeed, it was at a salon in the town of Kroonstad that he met his first wife, Berthe Sadie ‘Toots’ Delmont; they married in 1936, had a daughter (Elizabeth) the following year and Toots’ father bought a hairdresser’s salon for his son-in-law. Yet, Sollie (who, partly thanks to a teacher clearing up a confusion over nicknames involving his elder brother Maurice, had decided thereafter he’d be called ‘Sidney James’) wanted a different future. Ironically, one not unlike that of his parents, whose absence had caused resentment in the young Sid. So, not only did he turn his back on hairdressing, he also turned his back on his wife; his first marriage lasted just four years. It’s been suggested that, even then, the reason for this relationship’s breakdown was Sid’s womanising (he sired two children with other women), but one wonders whether there was more to it than that. Having given up the salon for the theatre – he joined the Johannesburg Repertory Players, which led to radio acting gigs with the South African Broadcasting Corporation and a stage lead in Of Mice And Men – it’s clear that not just Sid’s amorous desires, but his dreams and ambitions lay elsewhere.

All the same, Sid’s abandonment of his young bride and child was the last straw for her wealthy father (whom apparently ‘put a price’ on our man’s head), so he decided to cut his losses and join the army. And, coinciding as this did with the outbreak of World War Two, it actually aided his performing career – as it did for later British comic contemporaries such as The Goons, Tommy Cooper and fellow Carry On-ers Kenneth Williams and Kenneth Connor. For, after a stationing with the South African Tank Corps in Abysinnia, Sid was ordered (yes, really) to join the Entertainment Unit, made a corporal and proceeded to put on shows for his fellow troops. During this time, he was caught under heavy fire at the notorious Siege of Tobruk and was eventually promoted to the rank of staff sergeant. (Note: he would go on to portray many a working-class, sergeant-like, mid-level authority figure in years to come)

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Fun and games: Sid speeds away from the scene of the crime in Carry On Girls (left); living up to his working class hero brand by lending his identity to a pub game flogged as a ’70s family toy (right)

Around this time he acquired himself a second wife, dancer Meg Sergei, and come the war’s end and his decommission, the couple’s showbiz ambitions saw them leave their homeland for the glamour of London. In fact, so the legend goes, it was on hearing that an acting acquaintance of theirs named Larry Skikne had landed himself a grant for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) that they decided to relocate to the Smoke – Larry Skikne would eventually carve out more than a decent thesping career under a stage name that may (or may not) have been dreamt up by Sid… Laurence Harvey.

Sid and Meg arrived in the UK on Christmas Day 1946 and, amazingly enough, within days he’d landed himself not just an agent but a small role as a gangster in the crime flick Black Memory (1947). Indeed, by the end of the year he’d appeared in five films as well as in a radio drama; the following January he starred in his first play, Burlesque, which arrived at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End with an extra scene explicitly written to expand Sid’s role. The work was starting to flow and in the summer he made his debut on the relatively new medium that was television; days later he appeared on the box again as the lead in drama two-parter The Front Page.

By the time Sid featured in a major supporting role in the classic Ealing comedy hit The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), he’d already starred in 14 movies and was becoming a familiar face on TV and a recognisable voice on the radio. Specialising in playing tough guy-esque, Cockney-ish small-time crooks (and often in comedy), he was carving out a fine niche for himself; not bad for a Saffer who’d only been out of the army and in the country for five years. If only his private life could have gone so well. Despite having a daughter together in 1947 (named Reina, whom would go on to become an author and actress), Sid and Meg’s marriage had fallen apart and, this time, it appears his affairs can really only be blamed for the break-up. Not least because they seemed to have driven Meg to the bottle. The couple divorced and in 1952 he married 19-year-old actress Valerie Assan (whom used ‘Ashton’ as her stage-surname) and with whom he’d been characteristically, er, carrying on.

Work-wise, though, Sid’s life continued to go from strength to strength. So much so that the next stepping stone he took could be said to be the greatest of his entire his career, for it was the one that made him a household name. Ironically, it was also one he was far from comfortable with, at least initially. As has been noted, Sid had certainly done and thus was used to radio work, but he’d never done comedy on the radio – certainly not for a big-time project. And filling out a supporting berth in a BBC sitcom built around established comic star of the airwaves Tony Hancock was the big-time, all right.

Hancock’s Half Hour debuted in May 1954 and went on to run for six series, coming to an end in November 1961. One of the very first examples of a British sitcom, it offered listeners a 30-minute-long sketch, a willfully stripped-down step away from the variety-style sketch-and-song-filled comedy shows radio had previously delivered, such as Educating Archie (1950-58) – whose huge success had won Hancock his own show – and later, of course, Beyond Our Ken (1958-64) and Round The Horne (1965-68). Written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson (whom would later achieve just as much success with TV’s Steptoe And Son), the show focused around the observations and diatribes of a misanthropic comedian (a down-on-his-luck version of the real Hancock), supported by several characters (some of whom were played by future Carry On legends Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques) and included one Sidney Balmoral James, a petty criminal type whom often succeeded in implicating Hancock’s anti-hero in schemes, and in so doing usually conned him.

A warped take on Sid’s roguish persona, this character’s popularity in the runaway success that was Hancock’s Half Hour saw his star soar. Not least because he was the only cast member to make the transition with Hancock from the radio show to the just as well received TV adaptation (1956-60). Indeed, the lack of much of a supporting cast in this version saw Hancock and Sid come to be seen as a double act in the public’s mind. According to Moira Lister, a co-star on the radio show: “from the start he [Hancock] was very neurotic and worried about everything. It was never a relaxed and happy show. Sid, on the other hand, was relaxed and easy going … Because Sid was un-neurotic, he was able to cope with Tony’s neurosis and was probably a very good balance for him, both in and out of the studio”.

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“He never resorted to any tricks at all and he never upstaged anyone. He was a kid at heart. In Carry On Cowboy I’d find him behind the scenery twirling a six-gun and trying to practice a fast draw. And he always liked to gamble. He would run a sweepstake every day based on how many minutes of film we’d shoot”
~ Carry On director Gerald Thomas on Sid James

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Nonetheless, it didn’t last – and maybe couldn’t. Hancock hadn’t earned his neurotic persona for nothing; like so many comedians before and since, he was a depressive, sadly fuelled by drink and, one has to suspect, his decision to cut Sid out of the TV show and go it alone for one final (albeit no less successful) series – renamed simply Hancock (1961) – had more than a little to do with the inner demons he constantly battled. Apparently he didn’t tell his colleague and pal of so many years himself; he left it to the BBC brass to do so. Still, Sid clearly put the experience and Hancock behind him by moving on with other projects – most of which boasted him as lead player.

In truth, he had actually been poached away from the Beeb in 1958 to headline ITV’s comedy series East End, West End, in which he played a Cockney ducker-and-diver. The series hadn’t been a great success and with no second series in the offing Sid had been free to continue on Half Hour. When he was dropped from that show, though, Aunty was determined its TV rival wouldn’t step in again, so had Galton and Simpson dream up a new sitcom for its star. Citizen James (1960-62) cast Sid as an inveterate gambler named, er, Sidney Balmoral James. By the writers’ own admission, James was indeed simply playing his Half Hour role in a different TV show. Yet, co-starring future co-Carry On-er Liz Fraser as his girlfriend, Sid enjoyed popular success with Citizen James; it ran for three series and from the second series on even saw his character become something of a people’s champion.

Burned as he had been with East End, West End, however, Sid had been far from sure his future lay with TV, so before Citizen James he’d tried something new, namely singing and dancing in his supporting turn in the Tommy Steele-headlined movie musical Tommy The Toreador (1959). Given the film appears to be all but forgotten now, it’s fair to say it wasn’t a stonking success, but it shows that Sid was willing to stretch himself and do something different. In fact, throughout the ’50s he’d combined radio and TV work with appearances on the big screen, having played supporting roles in another Ealing classic The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), Hammer horror sequel Quatermass 2 (1955), classic thriller Hell Drivers (1957) and even the Burt Lancaster/ Tony Curtis Hollywood blockbuster Trapeze (1956).

However, the most notable film from this era in which Sid was cast – and this time in the lead – was the one that turned out to be arguably the most important of his career. Now a reliable, dependable, versatile screen lead, he was called on to replace radio comedy star Ted Ray, whom (owing to a dispute between rival film studios) wasn’t available to return for the latest movie in a line of comedy smash hits. The movie was Carry On Constable (1960) and Sid’s casting in it shifted him in a new irresistible direction – an upward curve towards utter iconoclasm. An audio interview recorded in 1972 (listen to it at the bottom of the page) reveals that Sid never expected  to become a lead actor, let alone a film star, but once he appeared in Constable there was no way back.

Like the three Carry Ons that had preceded it, this police-pastiching flick was huge at the UK box-office and made the series’ producer Peter Rogers and director Gerald Thomas realise they now had on their hands a de facto lead for their talented and hugely popular troupe of comic thesps (Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, Joan Sims and Kenneth Connor). Vying variously with Williams, Sid became arguably the series’ star attraction for the rest of its run. In total, he’d go on to appear in 19 of the silly, bawdy but often very funny Carry Ons; receiving top billing in every one. However, despite what anyone may say, he didn’t always play the same character. Make no mistake about it, over the course of the movies (and as befitting the needs of the series through the tumultuous social changes of the ’60s and ’70s), Sid’s Carry On persona certainly evolved. Well, if that’s the right word for it.

And it’s here that we collide with the Sid James legend or, to be more precise, the is-it-or-isn’t-it? obfuscation of the real Sid thanks to the big screen Sid occurs. In his early Carry Ons (Constable, RegardlessCruising and, to some extent, Cabby), he’s the put-upon authority figure, pulling his hair out at the ineptitude of those he’s lumbered with overseeing. Come the burgeoning sexual revolution of the mid-’60s, though, and definitely from Carry On Cleo (1964) onwards, he’s the randy, canny, inexplicably irresistible bloke with the unmistakeable ‘yak-yak-yak’ laugh who’s always chasing skirt – and, thanks to being variously successful at it, something of a peculiar fantasy figure for working class middle-aged men up and down the land. So, ensconced in the ’60s and drifting into the ’70s as we now are, was there a genuine blurring between the real Sid and this Sid we love so much? Well, possibly.

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Trouble and strife: a happy (?) Sid and wife Valerie at Tommy Steele’s wedding in 1960 (left); detail from the 1973 Christmas TV Times cover – Sid was carrying on with Babs in real-life at the time too 

The Sid of this era, having to earn a living for himself and his family (especially considering how badly the Carry Ons paid, even though it seems he was paid far better than most of the other regulars), was also a permanent star of the small screen, seamlessly moving between hugely popular and softly socially conscious domestic sitcoms in which he usually played a fairly straight, booze, football and gambling-friendly dad character – appearing opposite Peggy Mount in ITV’s George And The Dragon (1966-68), alongside Victor Spinetti in the BBC’s Two In Clover (1969-70) and, of course, in ITV’s fondly recalled Bless This House (1971-76), the latter of which was so successful it even spawned a 1972 feature film. Yet, the real Sid wasn’t a beacon for dull domesticity; by all accounts he was just as much the charming lothario he’d always been; only his third and final wife decided to put up with his bed-hopping.

Judging by her her memoirs, though, it seems there was one particular conquest that almost broke the camel’s back and, eventually and rather tragically, broke Sid himself. And, fueling the legend and aiding the blurring, it was the one he oh-so memorably chased in so many of his Carry Ons – just like in those movies, Barbara Windsor was a real-life obsession with Sid James. After they first appeared together in Carry On Doctor (1967) – the one in which Sid remains in his hospital bed for almost the entire duration; actually the result of him suffering from a recent heart attack, which was also the reason why he smoked a pipe in character thereafter – Sid simply couldn’t get the effervescent Ms Windsor (forever typecast as ‘Babs’, the chesty, perky Cockney bird as much up for how’s your father as a mere laugh) out of his mind and pursued her for years.

Was his pursuit of her as blatant, pathetic and cack-handed as it is in the marvellous Carry On Camping (1969)? Who knows, but its seductive to think so. Eventually, she relented and they had an affair in the early to mid-70s – around the time of the filming of the aforementioned Carry On Girls (1973) and Carry On Dick (1974); indeed, the chemistry between them in those two flicks seems pretty palpable, it must be said. Windsor has since said that she hoped if she slept with him once that would be an end to it, but it seems his infatuation was too strong, leading to him after some time being warned off by her then gangster husband Ronnie Knight. Which, contemporary sources suggest, was the beginning of the end for the brokenhearted Sid – he more or less ‘gave up’.

Carry On Dick, coming as it did just as the series entered its irrevocable decline, was Sid’s final, timely foray in the series and really his final professional foray (although between 1969 and ’75 there would be a few Carry On specials and a couple of series broadcast by ITV). He lived for another two years, finally succumbing to another heart attack that saw him actually die on stage during a performance in Sunderland; the smoking, boozing, gambling and, well, shagging having finally caught up with him it seems at the young age of 63.

Sid’s was undoubtedly a life of pursuing and getting what he wanted – a sort of successful version of all the aspirational but thwarted everyday men he played – yet his popular persona that’s been burned on to the public’s collective retina for so long belies the will to succeed he called on, the hard work he put in and the sheer talent he demonstrated throughout his long and varied career. Far too easy to overlook or even dismiss, Sid James is in fact a complex nest of thorny contradictions as well as Carry On delights; a bloke who so often we feel like we see when we look in a mirror – and even if that’s not who he really was, it’s who he’ll always be, ‘yak-yak-yakking’ back at us forever more.

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ May 2015

May 4, 2015

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In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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The Cowsills ~ The Rain, The Park & Other Things (1967)

Nancy Sinatra ~ Up, Up And Away (1967)¹

Otis Redding and Booker T & The MGs ~ Day Tripper (1967)

Carnaby Street Pop Orchestra and Choir ~ Dr Jekyll And Hide Park/ Hyde Park (1969)²

Chicago ~ 25 Or 6 To 4 (1970)

Sohail Rana ~ Soul Sitar (1970)

Roberta Flack ~ Sweet Bitter Love (1971)

John Barry ~ Theme from The Persuaders! (1971)³

Ben E King ~ Supernatural Thing Part 1 (1975)4

Planet Earth ~ Theme from Doctor Who (1978)

Kate Bush ~ And Dream Of Sleep (1985)

Billy Ocean ~ When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going (1986)5

Labi Siffre ~ Something Inside So Strong (1987)

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¹ An irresistible performance of the pop classic performed by the ’60s chanteuse on her NBC TV special Movin’ With Nancy, which was broadcast on December 11 1967 and was produced by her own company, Boots Enterprises Inc.

² This track from the musical collective’s marvellous LP The London Theme/ A Taste Of Excitement (the project of composer and conductor Keith Mansfield, whom in the ’60s worked as arranger for artists such as Tom Jones and Dusty Springfield and is now maybe most renowned for his ‘music library’ work), is very familiar in Brazil thanks to weekend TV show Sports Spectacular, for which it’s featured as the opening theme since the programme’s first broadcast in 1972

³ A promotional film of John Barry’s terrific theme for the Roger Moore– and Tony Curtis-starring TV adventure drama classic The Persuaders! (1971) for Top Of The Pops and featuring the umistakeable dance troupe Pan’s People

4 This ’70s soul classic from the singing legend, best recalled for his sensational solo hits Spanish Harlem and Stand By Me (both 1961) and his previous work as a principal lead singer with The Drifters, saw him hit top spot on the US R&B chart for the first time in 14 years and reach #5 on the main Billboard Hot 100 chart; Ben E. King died aged 76 on April 30

5 The awesome official video to the tremendous tune (which topped the charts in seven countries including the UK and hit #2 in the States) from the soundtrack of adventure movie The Jewel Of The Nile (1985), sequel to Romancing The Stone (1984), featuring the flick’s stars Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito on ‘backing vocals’

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What a Carry On: Carry On Regardless (1961)/ Carry On Cruising (1962)/ Carry On Cabby (1963)/ Carry On Jack (1963) ~ Reviews

April 30, 2015

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A week ago this blog took a step forward or (judging on your view) a step back by kicking-off its celebration of the UK’s greatest ever comedy movie series, a possibly ill-advised marathon viewing, reviewing, rating and ranking of every one of the films contained therein – a Carry On-athon, if you will. And this post, like it or not, sees its continuation.

Yes, with the four flicks under the microscope here, we’ve entered the ’60s, folks, and not only does it see the Carry Ons entering the age of colour, but there’s something of a nautical theme too, with two of the four films set at sea. But will the movies ride the rough waves of film criticism (or at least that of George’s Journal)? Well, you’ll just have to read on and find out, won’t you…?

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How it works:

  1. The ‘Carry On-athon’ takes in all 29 cinematically released Carry On films, chronologically from Carry On Sergeant (1958) right through to Carry On Emmannuelle (1978), excluding the compilation-clip-comprising That’s Carry On! (1977) and Carry On Columbus (1992), whose inclusion in the original series might be said to be a bit tenuous
  2. The reviews consist of 10 categories or movie facets, the inclusion of which tend to define a Carry On film as a Carry On film (‘the regulars’; ‘the crumpet’; ‘the setting’; ‘the plot’; ‘sauciness’; ‘cross-dressing’; ‘catchphrases’; ‘character names’; ‘music’ and ‘overall amusement’), each of which are rated out of 10, thus giving the film in question a rating out of 100, which ensures all 29 films can be properly ranked – the ratings are made up of ‘Boggles’, after Sid Boggle, Sid James’s utterly iconic character from Carry On Camping (1969)
  3. There’s also an ‘Adjuster for each film’s rating (up to plus or minus 10 ‘Boggles’) to give as fair as possible a score according to its overall quality as a film.

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Do you provide substitutes?”/
No, this is a respectable firm!

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Directed by: Gerald Thomas; Screenplay by: Norman Hudis; Composer: Bruce Montgomery;
Country: UK; Certificate: PG; Running time: 87 minutes; Released: March 1961; Black & White

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The regulars

Sid James; Kenneth Williams; Charles Hawtrey; Hattie Jacques; Joan Sims; Kenneth Connor/
semi-regulars: Liz Fraser (first film); Esma Cannon; Bill Owen;
Terence Longdon (final film); Joan Hickson

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The crumpet

Liz Fraser; Fenella Fielding

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The setting

Contemporary (early ’60s) London

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The plot

A bunch of jobseekers – Williams, Hawtrey, Sims, Fraser, Owen and Longdon – meet at the Employment Exchange (read: Job Centre) and, catching wind that new business ‘Helping Hands’ is hiring, race off to fill out its staff; the opportunity’s so enticing even the Exchange’s fed up jobsworth Connor joins them. Run by James, the mantra behind the ‘Helping Hands’ agency is to provide what’s required, however unusual the job – trying on underwear bought for an absent wife, acting as seconds for a boxer, giving a pet chimpanzee a walk, and so on. All seems to progress more or less all right, until the secretary’s (Cannon) filing system is disturbed and each staff member’s sent to the wrong job…

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Would you like sauce with that?

Regardless undoubtedly, er, keeps up the tradition of the bawdiness becoming more overt in each new Carry On. We’re hardly in the freewheeling ’60s here, but with Fraser making her debut the filmmakers take advantage of her looks, assets and comic talent – the first job anyone undertakes is her trying on expensive lingerie in a married man’s bedroom. And later Williams manages to fall into a bath at an ‘Ideal Home’ exhibition in which Sims is taking a dip, while James – and we – get to ogle a gaggle of under-dressed girls. I wonder whether that’ll ever happen again…?

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Cross-dressing to impress?

Fraser, by way of disguise, dons a heavy men’s overcoat and chapeau to exit the aforementioned married man’s wardrobe, in which she’d hidden when his wife unexpectedly returns home (yes, that old chestnut). She also puts on a blokey voice. To be fair, it’s more sexy than funny.

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Catchphrase count

‘Yak-yak-yak!’ (James): 3; ‘Corrr!’ (Connor): 1

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Marvellous monikers

Bert Handy (James); Francis Courtenay (Williams); Gabriel Dimple (Hawtrey); Lily Duveen (Sims);
Sam Twist (Connor); Delia King (Fraser); Montgomery Infeld-Hopping (Longdon);
Miss Cooling (Cannon); Penny Panting (Fielding)

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Plum notes or bum notes?

A rather unremarkable offering from Montgomery this time really, although the lack of an overarching theme to the film doesn’t aid his score in terms of identity. He clearly has fun with the cues during the train sequence, though, providing a very mock-film noir vibe.

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Do carry on or titter ye not?

This one has its moments – among them the home exhibition sequence, Sims getting plastered at a wine tasting do, Connor going all Bogart-cum-spy on a train and the finale when the gang titivate/ destroy an old house – but not really enough of them. Other sequences including a boxing bout, Connor caught in a honey trap with a horny Fielding and Williams at a chimps’ tea party (which, while memorable, nowadays feels a bit wrong) just keep things ticking along.

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Adjuster: 0

The weakest of the series’ early entries, Regardless suffers from its more-sketch-than-plot narrative – the sum of its parts definitely being less than its parts. The story’s far from incoherent or too absurd, yet you can’t help but wonder how ‘Helping Hands’ remains in business when the majority of its jobs are foul-ups. However, the addition of Liz Fraser to the Carry On company is an inspired move and Kenneth Connor’s dominance among the ensemble this time out is well deserved – he’s employee of the month.

Total Boggles:

55/ 100

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The best bit

Sid’s standing-in for an eminent doctor at a hospital, a sequence that concludes with the former inspecting the, er, health of a line of nurses in their underwear – note: just one film on from his debut and the lascivious side of Sid has reared its walnut-like head

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The best line

Cannon: “Don’t go – think of brain-washing!”/ Connor: “How can they wash what isn’t there?”

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Trivia

Regardless’s lack of a solid theme – in contrast with predecessors Sergeant (army), Nurse (hospital), Teacher (school) and Constable (police) – and a creditable plot is indeed down to the fact Hudis threw together sketches he’d previously written to form a script

Jacques only appears in a cameo as a hospital sister because illness prevented her taking a larger role

The film’s title memorably appears as a repetitive line in The Beautiful South song Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud) (1994) – itself, no doubt, a forerunner for the title of the band’s hugely popular best-of-album Carry On Up The Charts (1994).

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 Shut your port-hole”/ “Begging your pardon, sir,
one must have fresh…
”/ “… and your cake-hole!

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Directed by: Gerald Thomas; Screenplay by: Norman Hudis; Composer: Bruce Montgomery;
Country: UK; Certificate: PG; Running time: 85 minutes; Released: April 1962

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The regulars

Sid James; Kenneth Williams; Kenneth Connor/
semi-regulars: Liz Fraser; Dilys Laye (first film); Esma Cannon; Cyril Chamberlain

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The crumpet

Liz Fraser; Dilys Laye

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The setting

Contemporary times (the early ’60s) aboard a ship in the Mediterranean Sea; sending up holiday cruises

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The plot

The S. S. Happy Wanderer is setting sail on its latest cruise around the Mediterranean, but it looks to be a unhappy wander for the captain (James), concerned by the new faces in his crew – a gauche first officer (Williams), a blundering doctor (Connor) and an eccentric cook who’s never sailed before and is immediately struck with seasickness (Lance Percival). In addition to his ongoing quest with his colleagues to prove they’re not inept, Connor’s troubles are compounded by falling in love with a single-girl passenger (Laye), whom has been talked into the cruise by her similarly attractive best friend (Fraser), but seems to be looking for a man everywhere on the ship apart from in the doctor’s surgery.

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Would you like sauce with that?

You’d think a Carry On on a cruise ship (with all those rooms and cubbyholes in which goings-on might, well, go on) would be just the setting to send the sauce-o-meter up several notches compared to its predecessors, but that doesn’t really happen. There are moments of sauciness, sure, and they are more overt and knowing than those of the earliest in the series (such as Laye coming on to James, Fraser pretending to do so with Connor and the latter hopelessly trying to bring Laye round from a faint only to land on top of her on the floor), but the most suggestive stuff tends to be found in the wit of the script (to, er, wit: “You’re overwrought”/ “I’m underprivileged”).

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Cross dressing to impress?

Following its strong establishment in Carry On Constable (1960) and featuring again in immediately preceding movie Carry On Regardless (see above), it’s a little disappointing nobody dresses as the opposite sex here. That’s not to say there isn’t a good deal of costuming going on, though – after all, we are on a cruise ship. Indeed, Connor decks himself out as a matador to deliver a choice gag (see ‘the best line below’) to Williams, who’s a little curiously dressed as Zorro, while alone in his cabin with a hookah pipe, Percival goes full Lawrence Of Arabia (1962) in cream robes and a headscarf.

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Catchphrase count

‘Yak-yak-yak!’ (James): 5

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Marvellous monikers

Captain Wellington Crowther (James); First Officer Leonard Marjoribanks (Williams);
Dr Arthur Binn (Connor); Glad Trimble (Fraser); Flo Castle (Laye);
Bridget Madderley (Cannon); Tom Tree (Chamberlain)

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Plum notes or bum notes?

Montgomery’s final score for the series isn’t exactly his most memorable. It does the job perfectly admirably, but aside from flamenco-flavoured and oriental-tinged touches at choice moments, when the ship drops anchor at its various Mediterranean stop-offs, nothing really lingers in the bonce. The song with which Connor attempts to serenade Laye (Bella Marie, actually performed by Roberto Carinali) raises a few chuckles, mind you.

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Do carry on or titter ye not?

Despite its drawbacks, Cruising is arguably the series’ funniest effort thus far. It’s big on the belly laughs – Laye and Cannon’s drunken encounter in the bar, the impromptu injections in Percival’s posterior and that memorable slapstick-tastic table tennis toss-up between Cannon and Williams. Not to be outdone, though, Hudis’s script is particularly witty too (“That’s why I drink, to forget her”/ “Forget who?”/ “Blessed if I can remember”; “Gentlemen, have I your agreement for a policy of unremitting quasi-teutonic organisational protectionism?”; “Flo! Ebb a bit”). Plus, Percival’s casting is inspired; it’s a shame his unique brand of unpredictable comedy would grace the series only this once – his blowing instead of sucking on a hookah pipe while dressed as a sheik is randomly marvellous.

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Adjuster: +5

Leagues of ocean away from being all at sea, Cruising nonetheless treads water. Mostly because the oft-seen-before narrative of a band of misfits (as ever, including Williams and Connor) messing up in the face of a superior only to put things right come the final reel is starting to feel a little tired. All the same, (more or less) newcomers Percival, Fraser, Laye and Cannon are all on top form and this flick marks an evolution point in the series – Williams’ persona is shifting here from an intellectual to a camp (somewhat) bureaucratic buffoon and, yes, colour has to come to Carry On. And it looks glorious.

Total Boggles:

60/ 100

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The best bit

 Laye and Cannon’s bonding by getting spontaneously sozzled in the ship’s bar – much to Fraser’s chagrin, the barman’s dismay and the habitual drunk’s awe

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The best line

Connor: “Well, my father, he breeds the famous fighting bulls, you know. Every year, 50,000 bulls he sends off by ship to South America”/ Williams: “50,000 bulls?”/
Connor: “Si, si. Also every year, 20,000 more he ships off to France”/ Williams: “That’s 70,000 bulls”/
Connor: “Si, si. One of the biggest bullshippers in the business”

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Trivia

Cruising’s script was based on an idea by early Carry On acting regular Eric Barker

Charles Hawtrey was dropped from the cast for apparently demanding top billing and a star on his dressing room door (he would have played Percival’s role); Joan Sims was also nixed, and wouldn’t reappear until Carry On Cleo (1964), owing to a dalliance with a Pinewood Studios carpenter (yes, really), which allowed Dilys Laye to make her debut in the series – the latter joining the shoot after just four days’ notice

This was Hudis’s last Carry On, after which he left the UK to take up job offers Stateside following the US success of Carry On Nurse (1959); his subsequent work included writing for TV shows The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68), The Wild Wild West (1965-69) and Hawaii Five-0 (1968-80)

At one point in the film, Percival’s chef character Haynes tasks a subordinate with breaking eggs, but when the underling complains it’ll take too long, Haynes demonstrates that he can place all the eggs in a large container, drop it on the ground and strain out the egg shells – this scene inspired a methodology (the ‘Haynes Technique’) used in modern-day data processing and systems design that describes any simple low-tech solution or method which would normally be overlooked because it appears to be counter-intuitive.

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carry_on_cabby

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The men haven’t got your advantages, dear –
just flash your headlamps at them

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Directed by: Gerald Thomas; Screenplay by: Talbot Rothwell; Composer: Eric Rogers;
Country: UK; Certificate: PG; Running time: 85 minutes; Released: June 1963; Black & White

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The regulars

Sid James; Charles Hawtrey; Hattie Jacques; Kenneth Connor; Jim Dale (first film)/
semi-regulars: Liz Fraser; Esma Cannon (final film); Amanda Barrie (first film);
Bill Owen (final film); Cyril Chamberlain (final film); Judith Furse (first film);
Renée Houston (first film); Valerie Van Ost (first film); Peter Gilmore (first film)

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The crumpet

Liz Fraser; Amanda Barrie; Carole Shelley; Valerie Van Ost; Marian Horton

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The setting

Contemporary (early ’60s) Britain; sending up the taxicab industry and ‘the war of the sexes’

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The plot

Charlie (James) runs the only taxicab company in town. Things are going so well that he and his manager Ted (Connor) have to recruit new drivers, including the enthusiastic but inept Hawtrey. Yet, all’s not well in paradise, as Ted’s at loggerheads with his on-off girlfriend, the cabbies’ café girl Sally (Fraser), and, worse, Charlie’s wife Peggy (Jacques) feels neglected. The final straw comes when Charlie misses their anniversary because he’s carting a man (Dale) and his expectant wife to and from hospital, so with her friend Flo (Cannon), Peggy secretly sets up a rival taxicab company to make him notice her and strike a blow for womankind. Soon ‘Glamcabs’ – featuring a bevy of leggy beauties in a fleet of Ford Cortinas – is not only stealing Charlie’s custom, but threatening to put him out of business.

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Would you like sauce with that?

With the first half of the film’s emphasis on marital strife, the opportunity for bawdiness properly comes in the second half when things shift to chauvinism and proto-women’s lib in the workplace – and, even then, the titillation amounts to shots of the ‘Glamcabs’ girls’ legs, close-ups of a clothed breast or two, the girls briefly stripping to their underwear and (mostly) Amanda Barrie’s coy sexual suggestion (on picking up a ‘fare’: “I know what to do – I’ve been picking up men since I was 17”). But, like with other strong early Carry Ons, it would be to Cabby’s definite detriment were the sauce stronger.

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Cross-dressing to impress?

Poor old Kenneth Connor, for it’s his turn to get the transvestite treatment this time, but you’ve got to hand it to him, he does his duty with bells on. Forced by his boss to impersonate a ‘Glamcab’ cabby to infiltrate their garage so his cronies can sabotage their vehicles, he goes the whole hog of not just donning the uniform, a wig and lipstick, but also the lingerie underneath. And, even better, he does make for a truly ugly woman. Of course, he gets his comeuppance – being faced with having to undress in front of all the other girls and, in his escape, ending up in what appears to be a drum full of oil.

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Catchphrase count

‘Yak-yak-yak!’ (James): 7; ‘Corrr!’ (Connor): 1

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Marvellous monikers

Charlie Hawkins (James); Terry ‘Pintpot’ Tankard (Hawtrey); Peggy Hawkins (Jacques);
Flo Sims (Cannon); Smiley Sims (Bill Owen); Punchy (Darryl Kavann); Tubby (Don McCorkindale)

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Plum notes or bum notes?

Promoted from producer Peter Rogers’ wife’s/ director Gerald Thomas’s brother’s Doctor movie series to the Carry Ons, composer Eric Rogers makes a masterful debut. His main theme is irresistible – a breezy but smooth melody with a harmonica solo (in fact, the film’s original title Call Me A Cab can be easily sung to its tune). Elsewhere, all the hallmarks of his scores to come can also be delightfully heard: a full-out brassy theme that oozes glamour for the ‘Glamcabs’ girls and the humorous wheezing touches used to wonderfully underscore, nay highlight, bawdy moments for eager punters everywhere.

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Do carry on or titter ye not?

Arguably one of the series’ most consistently funny flicks, Cabby is a thorough success when it comes to amusement. The first third’s ‘kitchen sink’ set-up pays dividends with Sid and Hattie (so used to such stuff from years of sitcom work) relishing all the brilliant domestic (non)bliss of Rothwell’s cracking script – see video clip below. And the move then to cab firm versus cab firm/ gender war of the movie’s second third is marvellous farce, while the cabby chase of the last third (orchestrated by Sid like a general marshalling ex-squaddies, which his drivers are all supposed to be, of course) is equally terrific.

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Adjuster: +10

A cast-iron Carry On classic, thanks not least to new scribe Rothwell’s pacy, social comment-rich script, Cabby’s a delight from its first fare to its closing kiss-off line. Cruising may have brought colour to the series, but the real sea-change occurred here – look at all the ‘regulars’ either debuting or departing (see above), while Rothwell’s writing points to his future plots’ similar flexiblility, daring and bawdiness. No question, everyone’s at the top of their game here, especially Sid and Hattie. Come the closing credits, who wouldn’t want to see a sitcom featuring the further adventures of Charlie and Peggy and co.?

Total Boggles:

85/ 100

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The best bit

There’s so many brilliant bits in this one, but for me it may just be the opening scene (incorporating, over the titles, Rogers’ terrifically buoyant theme), in which we see the birth of Sid’s cheeky Cockney Carry On persona (‘yak-yak-yakking’ in his cab and enjoying himself immensely as he insults a chauffeur) – it ebulliently announces the arrival of the Rothwell/ Rogers-era… and how

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The best line

Sid: “In no time at all, you find that you’re about as popular as a wickerwork seat in a nudist camp –
and you know what sort of impression that makes on people”

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Trivia

The first Carry On to be written by Talbot ‘Tolly’ Rothwell (whom would go on write every subsequent one except the last three), Cabby was actually based on a play by early Morecambe and Wise scribes Dick Hills and Sid Green named, as noted above, Call Me A Cab – indeed, the film went by that title until halfway through production, at which point the decision was made to include it in the Carry On series

Initially, Charles Hawtrey couldn’t drive so had to learn within a week (having three one-hour lessons a day), passing his test the day before shooting commenced

This was the first film in the series that Kenneth Williams missed; out of all 29, he would only miss a further three – the first of which came all of seven years later in the shape of Carry On Up The Jungle

The filming of this specific Carry On is recreated in the TV movie biopic Hattie (2011), in which Ruth Jones plays Jacques; apparently, her role in this movie was Jacques’ favourite of all her Carry Ons

As Cabby was released in cinemas, Sid James was appearing on the small screen in a BBC comedy drama called Taxi! (1963-64) – in which his character, yes, ran a taxicab firm.

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carry_on_jack

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What’s all this jigging in the rigging?

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Directed by: Gerald Thomas; Screenplay by: Talbot Rothwell; Composer: Eric Rogers;
Country: UK; Certificate: PG; Running time: 87 minutes; Released: November 1963

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The regulars

Kenneth Williams; Charles Hawtrey; Jim Dale/ semi-regulars: Bernard Cribbins (first film);
Percy Herbert (first film); Peter Gilmore; Sally Douglas (first film)

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The crumpet

Juliet Mills; Vivian Ventura

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The setting

Early 19th Century England and at sea; sending up seafaring Napoleonic War adventures

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The plot

Following the death of Admiral Nelson, the British Navy realises it needs more men pronto. This urges the promotion of the incompetent Albert Poop-Decker (Cribbins) to a midshipman. Assigned to the ship HMS Venus, Albert – advised by a porter (Dale) – visits an inn to sow his wild oats before setting sail. There, however, serving wench Sally (Mills) steals his clothes and stowaways aboard the Venus with the aim of finding her seafaring childhood sweetheart who’s presumed lost in Spain. Press-ganged into the crew along with the similarly useless Walter (Hawtrey), Albert struggles to convince Williams’ captain – named Fearless, yet who’s anything but – and the officers (Herbert and Donald Houston) of his true identity and that the ‘lad’ (Sally) claiming to be Midshipman Poop-Decker is an impostor.

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Would you like sauce with that?

Taking a back-step here, if you want to look at it that way, compared to the immediately preceding entry, Jack is, well, a little coy in its treatment of the sexy stuff. The most risqué section of the movie – the scenes in the inn – sees the characters sheepishly refer to intercourse as ‘what’ (rather than with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink code-word that’s actually funny). At least later on, Williams’ utter shock at witnessing Cribbins and Mills (the latter still dressed as a young lad) snogging is amusing, given he’s so surprised he doesn’t even have the capacity to be appalled. But, frankly, it’s all pretty innocuous.

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Cross-dressing to impress?

Although the only man-dressed-as-woman action we get is Cribbins wearing an inn wench’s frilly dress (admittedly for an extended period), Jack scores particularly well in this category because – extremely rarely in this series – we get some woman-dressed-as-man action. It’s a doozy as well, given it’s Mills impersonating poor Cribbins’ personage for the majority of the movie (and mighty fetching she looks in a naval uniform too). Unusually for a Carry On, there’s something almost Shakespearean about the cross-dressing here – bringing to mind Twelfth Night. Or maybe more accurately ‘Bob’ from Blackadder II.

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Catchphrase count

Perhaps due to the lack of so many regular cast members or because this was the first historical effort in the series, Jack features no Carry On catchphrases at all.

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Marvellous monikers

Captain Fearless (Williams); Walter Sweetley (Hawtrey); Midshipman Albert Poop-Decker (Cribbins); Mr Angel (Percy Herbert); Captain Roger/ Patch (Peter Gilmore); Hook (Ed Devereaux)

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Plum notes or bum notes?

In his second effort for the series, Eric Rogers certainly does an admirable job in aping the self-satisfied, grandiose feel of so many adventure yarn scores, but it must be said there isn’t an abundance of his terrific trademark flaring flourishes (often the musical equivalent of a wink at the audience), but then that may be a reflection of the relatively low bawdiness on offer – see above. Indeed, the onscreen less-is-more approach doesn’t exactly get the most out of Rogers’ scoring, let’s be honest.

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Do carry on or titter ye not?

With more than an eye on its historical setting (and so a little over-faithfully following the beats of the Napoleonic-era naval romp?), Jack may be be a tad underwhelming when it comes to humour – it ought to be noted, though, that this was also Rothwell’s ‘first’ script of the series (see ‘Trivia’ below) so he was yet to hit his groove. All the same, the leads are all very good value, the plot’s turnarounds always comedic and Williams’ captain’s insistence on a cow being aboard to provide the men with milk instead of rum (which ends up sharing an ‘escape boat’ with the leads) is classic Carry On absurdity.

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Adjuster: +8

Truth be told, before this viewing, I wasn’t overly familiar with Jack, but it pleasantly surprised me. Taking a risk by going historical, the Carry On team nail their colours to the main-brace and go for the new direction whole heartedly. Although it could do with a few more zingers and too often the bits with the strait-laced Houston and Herbert lag, once we hit the second half and the plot twists and turns about mimicking a good old pirate story, there’s certainly fun to be had. Meanwhile, Cribbins is a winning comic hero, Williams relishes his authority idiot and Juliet Mills makes for a lovely leading lady.

Total Boggles:

61/ 100

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The best bit

The sight of at least a dozen Spanish guards filing, one after the other, into the Cadiz prison cell holding the captured Venus crew, followed by the sounds of a skirmish, then, straight after, the sight of the British crew filing out, one after the other, dressed in the guards’ uniforms

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The best line

Jimmy Thompson (as Nelson): “Kiss me, Hardy”/ Anton Rodgers (as Hardy): “I beg your pardon, sir?”/ Thompson: “Kiss me, Hardy”/ Rodgers: “Are you mad? What will they say at The Admiralty, sir?”/ Thompson: “They’ll only be jealous”

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Trivia

Jack’s was the first of Talbot Rothwell’s screenplays to be read by producer Peter Rogers and gain his approval, even though the script that would turn out to be Carry On Cabby (see above) was filmed first

Before becoming Carry On Jack, the first historical entry in the series went through several titles, including Carry On Sailor!, Carry On Mate and the decidedly non-Carry On alternatives Admiral Poop-Decker R.N. (possibly the title of Rothwell’s original script) and Up The Armada – which, rumour has it, may have fallen foul of the British censors

Juliet Mills had previously appeared in Rogers and Thomas’s comedies Twice Round The Daffodils (1962) and Nurse On Wheels (1963), both of which are similar in style to the early Carry Ons and the former of which is based on the same play (Ring For Catty) as was Carry On Nurse (1959)

Extensive use was made of a period-ship set built for the British adventure movie H.M.S. Defiant (1962)

Apparently, the reason why established regulars Sid James, Hattie Jacques and Joan Sims didn’t appear in Jack is because there simply weren’t suitable roles for them, while, at the urging of her agent, Liz Fraser had decided to move on from the series and Kenneth Connor’s absence was due to him appearing alongside future Carry On-er Frankie Howerd in the original West End run of musical A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

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Carry On Ranking

(All out of 100; new entries in blue)

1. Carry On Cabby (1963) ~ 85

2. Carry On Nurse (1959) ~ 65

3. Carry On Constable (1960) ~ 63

4. Carry On Jack (1963) ~ 61

5. Carry On Cruising (1962) ~ 60

6. Carry On Sergeant (1958) ~ 58

7. Carry On Teacher (1959) ~ 56

8. Carry On Regardless (1961) ~ 55

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Keep calm,
the Carry On reviews
will, yes, carry on

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