“How many times do I have to tell you we’re not going to dynamite the wall. It’s a police station. They get funny about that sort of thing.”
Of course I’m not going straight.”
“I joined the police force for a bit of action.”
“What are you all of a sudden? Britain’s best dressed jailbird?”
“When a man has to stay in bed, that’s the time he really needs a woman, I think.”
“Won’t you get into trouble taking the sergeant’s trousers off?”
“”What nit would want to climb into a police station?”
“Anybody’d think you haven’t seen a harpoon gun before.”
“Go on, buzz off to bed.”
“We’ve far more serious things to worry about than suspicious incidents.”
“Don’t run away from her, you nit. Give in.”
Crime certainly doesn’t pay, but at least it provides a few laughs in the British Comedy, The Big Job. Although the film’s box cover brags that “The CARRY ON gang star in a cracking comedy caper film,” the film isn’t as funny as the best of the Carry On films. Directed by Gerald Thomas (who directed the Carry On films) it does feature a few of the Carry On stars–most notably Sid James and Joan Sims. The Big Job (aka What a Carry On: The Big Job) is an amusing film, and it certainly takes the viewer on a pleasant nostalgic trip to the 60s days of film.
The film begins in 1950 with gang leader, George aka The Great Brain (Sid James) planning a bank robbery with his criminal pals. The gang consists of Frederick “Booky” Binns (Dick Emery), Timothy “Dipper” Day (Lance Percival), and Myrtle Robbins (Sylvia Syms), who’s also George’s moll. The plan is to knock off a small bank, but the heist is bungled from start to finish. Prior to his capture, George hides the loot inside of a tree located in the countryside. George, Frederick and Timothy are all captured and sentenced to 15 years.
15 years later, Myrtle is at the prison gates for a reunion, but the first order of business is to go get that money. While George does manage to relocate the tree, it’s now standing in the middle of a police station. Undeterred George decides to book everyone in to a boarding house that stands opposite the police station. Here, he reasons, since he will be able to see the tree, he can work out a way to break into the police station and get the loot.
Lonely widow Mildred Gamely (Joan Sims) owns the boarding house, and the gang members check into her home as Professor Hook, Dr. Line, Mr. Sinker. There are a couple of problems; lanky policeman, Harold (Jim Dale) also lives in the house, and Mildred sets her beady eyes on one of the male gang members.
Some of the comedy comes from the gang’s complete ineptness, but Sid James isn’t at his best here. We only get the signature chuckle a couple of times, and Sid as an inept crook isn’t as funny as most of his other, better roles which usually involve some sort of craftiness (Carry On Camping, Carry On Girls). Sylvia Syms doesn’t quite fit in the role of gang moll Myrtle. Although she dons a working class accent for the role, she doesn’t quite carry off the part, and it’s in the moments that she’s silent that she seems most out-of-place. During breakfasts around the landlady’s table for example, the rest of the gang pass themselves off as birdwatchers, and of course, given the gang members’ behaviour and mannerisms, that’s a ludicrous notion. But when Sylvia Syms sits at the table eating and minding her own business as the conversation rages around her, she makes a believable professor’s wife. It’s just that all three professors are obviously not who they say they are. I kept imagining Carry On’s Barbara Windsor in the role of Myrtle–a bit tarty, cheeky and cockney–and it was a good fit.
Ultimately, Joan Sims steals the film as Myrtle Gamely. There’s one scene in her bedroom with “Prof Link” that displays this talented actress’s wide range. Watching the scene, it feels like being in the room as she coyly parries questions, hides her pleasure, and tries to act as though she isn’t being propositioned. The comedy here comes from the fact she really isn’t being propositioned but she thinks she is.
Another funny subplot involves the policemen’s choir led by the local Sgt (Deryck Guyler). He’s so engrossed in the choir, crime rages rampant outside of his very front door, and to him it’s just a big bother and a distraction from his main interest. He has the bureaucratic demeanor down pat.
For fans of British comedies from the 60s, this is a satisfying film–not wonderful, but it’s certainly a great pleasure to watch some many familiar faces again.