Tag Archives: British comedy

Carry On Behind (1975)

 “I am going around camp looking for scrubbers.”

A motley assortment of fun-seeking holidaymakers crowd into a grotty caravan park in the British comedy film Carry On Behind. Ernie Bragg (Jack Douglas) and Fred Ramsden (Windsor Davies) have left their wives behind for a ‘fishing holiday.’ Ernie and Fred are supposed to be catching fish, but they’re really after the two girls in the next tent. Arthur Upmore (Bernard Bresslaw) and his wife Linda (Patsy Rowlands) brought her miserable mother, Daphne Barnes (Joan Sims) along on holiday. Another couple insisted on bringing their huge, roaming Irish Wolfhound, and there’s also a smut-talking Mynah bird on the loose. But along with all the holidaymakers, stuffy Professor Roland Crump (Kenneth Williams) and Russian “Roman expert” archeology Professor Anna Vooshka (Elke Sommer) descend upon the campsite in order to conduct excavations of newly discovered Roman ruins.

behindIn many ways, this Carry On script seems a little tired. If the film reminds you of an attempt to recapture the magic of Carry On Camping, you’d be correct. Carry On Behind was even filmed in the same field. Of course the fact that many of the regulars are missing, doesn’t help. Kenneth Connor plays Major Leap–the lecherous owner of the caravan park, and Peter Butterworth plays Henry Barnes–the park’s sly handyman. But Sid James, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor are all missing. Kenneth Williams has a decent role, but it’s, surprisingly, Elke Sommer who steals (and carries) the film with a marvelous performance. One of the film’s ongoing, best jokes is Professor Vooshka’s broken English. She and Professor Crump are forced to share a caravan, and of course, he’s horrified at the idea. But she delivers some great lines with splendid aplomb and manages to salvage the film with her spotty command of English: “You think you are getting crumpet.” “In this caravan, you not getting much crumpet.” “I am wanting you very badly.” “It’s wrong for lady showing her knickers in public.”

For those unfamiliar with Carry On films, Carry On films were a successful, extremely popular series of lowbrow British comedies that were made over a series of decades. The Carry On team was composed of the best talent in British comedy, and new faces were added to each film.

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Carry On at Your Convenience (1971)

 “That’s all I need–a face full of soggy knickers.”

carry on at your convenienceIn Carry On at Your Convenience there’s a crisis at the Boggs Toilet Factory. The factory is on the verge of bankruptcy, but factory owner W.C. Boggs (Kenneth Williams) refuses to listen to his son Lewis’s (Richard O’Callaghan) suggestion to make money by manufacturing bidets. When Lewis appears with a contract for 1,000 bidets, W.C gives in. But there’s a problem–the sheik who ordered the bidets needs them within 2 months in time for the annual ‘Av-a-Nibble festival during which he visits all 1,000 wives. The pressure is on to complete the order before the deadline and save the factory from ruin.

A number of sub-plots add to the mayhem. Lewis is chasing after Myrtle Plummer (Jacki Piper) the daughter of foreman Sid Plummer (Sid James). Strike-happy union shop steward Vic Spanner (Kenneth Cope) is also pursuing Myrtle. Meanwhile back at the Plummer home, Mrs. Plummer (Hattie Jacques) relentlessly tries to get the budgie to talk while she nags Sid about his gambling losses. The film culminates in the annual works outing to Brighton, and the outing degenerates into a pub-crawl.

Charles Hawtrey appears as a sly toilet designer, Charles Coote. Bernard Bresslaw is Bernie Hulke–Vic’s sidekick. Joan Sims appears as Chloe Moore, Sid’s extra-marital interest, and Patsy Rowlands plays the lovelorn secretary Hortence Withering. For those who’ve never seen a Carry-On film, the Carry-On films were made over a period of almost three decades. The Carry-On team was composed of a core of the greatest comic talent in Britain, and while the films also included new talent, Carry-On fans always knew they could count on seeing some of their old favourites. Carry-On films are bawdy, loaded with cliches and sexual innuendo, and so if that sort of comedy appeals to you, you are guaranteed to enjoy yourself. Carry On at Your Convenience is particularly interesting as its bottom-smacking humour occurs largely at the workplace, and the film was made before anyone had heard of the term ‘sexual harassment.’ For those of us who are Carry-On fans, Carry On at Your Convenience will create a pleasant state of nostalgia.

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Carry On…Don’t Lose Your Head (1966)

 

“I don’t care about Equalities and Fraternities, but I’m not having the Liberties.”

carry-onCarry On Don’t Lose Your Head is one of the funniest entries in this popular British comedy film series. Two English dandies, Sir Rodney Ffing (Sid James) and Lord Darcy Pue (Jim Dale) are so appalled by the brutality of the French Revolution, they decide to hop over to France and start saving the aristocrats. Donning various disguises, Ffing and Pue engineer a series of daring rescues–conducted by the mysterious “Black Fingernail.” Soon the dreaded Head of The Secret Police–Camembert (Kenneth Williams) and his sidekick, Citizen Bidet (Peter Butterworth) are on the scent of the Black Fingernail. When the Duc de Pommfrit (Charles Hawtrey) is boldly rescued from the guillotine’s blade, Robespierre (Peter Gilmore) is furious, and Camembert knows he must stop at nothing to get the Fingernail …

Camembert, Bidet, and Desiree Dubarry (Joan Sims) head to England to uncover the identity of the mysterious Black Fingernail. In their possession is a set of false teeth that will lead to the man they seek. Camembert and Desiree pose as the Duke and Duchess de la Plume de Ma Tante, and of course, they fail horribly to blend into the exiled French community in England.

The main reason this is one of the funniest Carry On films is that such great comedic roles are created for Sid James, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Williams, and Joan Sims, and these four characters integrate incredibly well together. There’s a bizarre relationship between Bidet and Camembert that gives a lot of laughs, and their relationship is in contrast to the relationship between the two society dandies–Ffing and Pue. The script is packed with some of the best lines from Carry On–“I come from a poor family, Miss, and we couldn’t afford luxuries like you.” “When you undress, it’s like emptying a dustbin.” “No, you cannot have a bit of a prod.” “Why can’t they eat frog’s legs and snails like normal people?” At times the lines lapse into a very funny blend of French and English and this creates a great comic effect

For those who aren’t familiar with the Carry On series, these films were highly successful lowbrow British comedies that were made for a period of several decades. The Carry On team was composed of ‘regulars’ who represented the best talent in the business, and new faces were added for each film.

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Steptoe and Son/Steptoe and Son Ride Again (1972 & 1973)

 “If anyone ever tries to sell you a talking parrot, you’d better look for a tape recorder stuffed up its khyber. “

steptoe1Steptoe and Son was an extremely popular comedy programme that aired on British television from 1962-1974. Its immense popularity led to the creation of the American version–Sanford and Son. In the original British version, Harold Steptoe (Harry H. Corbett) and his elderly father Alfred (Wilfred Campbell) are London rag-and-bone men. The films Steptoe and Son and Steptoe and Son Ride Again are both full-length films created thanks to the popularity of the television series. This double-sided DVD from Anchor Bay is decent quality–with the sort of picture you’d expect from films made in the 1970s.

The series revolves mainly around the Steptoes’ decrepit, filthy rubbish-filled home where conflict continually rages between father and son. Harold feels trapped by his father’s attempts to control his life, and he talks about breaking away. According to Harold, he’s ‘held back’ by his commitment to his father, so he blames his father for his lack of opportunities and bachelorhood. Albert, on the other hand, is much more intelligent and crafty than his hapless son who can be pathetically guileless at times. A great deal of the comedy–which is crude rather than bawdy–focuses on Albert’s filthy habits. So the father and son pair–who at times seem more like an old married couple–need each other to survive–but strenuously deny it. If it ever seems likely that Harold may break his familial ties, then Albert plays the pathetic old man card, and this brings Harold to heel.

These themes are also dominant in the Steptoe and Son/Steptoe and Son Ride Again films. In Steptoe and Son, Harold meets a stripper and falls in love. The result is a hasty marriage with a subsequent honeymoon in a partially completed hotel in Spain. And of course, Albert goes along for the honeymoon. In Steptoe and Son Ride Again, after their horse retires, Harold and Albert scrape together every last penny they have to buy a new one. Harold, however, out of his father’s clutches for a few hours uses his independence to buy a racing greyhound. Without a horse to pull their cart, the Steptoes face financial ruin–a state they’re never very far from anyway.

Yootha Joyce, and Diana Dors (a very lonely widow) both appear in small roles, and Milo O’Shea stars as a doctor whose house calls begin only when the pub closes. Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, the scriptwriters for the television series, also wrote the screenplays for the films. Unfortunately, both films lack the consistently biting humour of the television series and slide into the occasional sentimentality. Nonetheless it’s wonderful to see these two comedians once again.

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Futtock’s End (1970)

Futtock’s End is the name of General Futtock’s country estate, and the film’s plot revolves around what happens when a motley assortment of guests descend on the town of Pease Green to spend the weekend with the General. Written by the late great British comedian Ronnie Barker–who also stars as General Futtock–this approximately 47-minute film contains no dialogue. Instead there are brilliantly selected sound effects, music, and incoherent mumblings.

The guests include a slightly dotty deaf painter, Futtock’s aunt, who’s a crazed knitter, two young girls (one is Futtock’s niece), and an upper class twit (Julian Orchard). Somehow or another, a lost Japanese businessman becomes mixed in with the visitors, and he becomes an unwilling guest for the weekend in the rambling, decaying mansion.

The events of the country weekend are quite hilarious–thanks in part to the lascivious butler (Michael Hordern) who’s prepared to go to any lengths to sneak a peep at the mini-skirted guest. The fact that this film contains no dialogue accentuates the comic genius of the talented Ronnie Barker (of The Two Ronnies fame). And Barker fans will appreciate his role as the monocle-sporting, slightly befuddled, fusty General Futtock. This is very funny stuff–from the inebriated dinner guests, and late night hanky panky, to the Golden Retriever who retrieves all the wrong things.

Although the picture quality is not as sharp as newly released material, this DVD release of Futtock’s End is good news for Ronnie Barker fans. From director Bob Kellett

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Up Pompeii (1969-1970)

 “You see the effect I have on women? See they go mad. “

Up Pompeii–an extremely popular British television series in the 1960s and 70s–featured one of Britain’s best loved comedians, the late great Frankie Howerd. As the title suggests, the comedy programme is set in ancient Pompeii. This two-tape VHS set includes 6 episodes from the series.

Tape 1:
The Legacy
Roman Holiday
Exodus

Tape 2:
Vestal Virgins
The Love Potion
James Bondus.

Frankie Howerd plays Lurcio, the gossipy, crafty, campy, self-serving and leering slave of Senator Ludicrus Sextus, his wife Ammonia, daughter Erotica and son Nausius. Lurcio persists in trying to tell his “prologue” as he introduces each segment, but he is constantly interrupted by events that constitute each glorious, riotous episode. Full of cheeky innuendos, and bawdy double entendres, Lurcio frequently chides the audience for not catching jokes quickly enough and admonishes them to behave for their imagined collective dirty thoughts. Several ongoing jokes appear in each episode. For example, his mistress Ammonia–a “nagging old cow” is always trying to deceive her husband. Nausius is constantly in love and writing ditties (that don’t rhyme), Erotica runs around with different gladiators, and the soothsayer always spoils Lurcio’s stories.

In The Legacy Ludicrus Sextus will inherit a substantial sum if only he and Ammonia have a child. The problem is that Ludicrus and Ammonia really can’t stand each other, so it’s up to Lurcio to ‘fix it.’ In Roman Holiday Lurcio meets two runaway slave girls–a couple of “ravers” who are being pursued by their captors. Lurcio helps hide the girls but as he sadly comments: “Once more my loofah must go back into cold storage.” In Exodus poor Lurcio finds himself in the bargain basement of the Nefarious Slave Boutique where he’s marked down and sold to a rapacious widow–Mrs. Night and Day.

In Vestal Virgins Pompeii becomes “Dodge City” when Lurcio tries to locate Miss Miracle of BC 72 for the Festival of Vestal Virgins. The winner of the festival of Vestal Virgins will win a week’s holiday in Rome and a night out with Mark Antony. In The Love Potion Lurcio has a night off, and he acquires a love potion–with disastrous consequences. In James Bondus Lurcio comes into the possession of a set of plans for Pompeii’s secret weapon–a giant catapult. Lurcio decides his girdle in the safest place to hide the plans, and soon everyone is more than a little interested in the contents of Lurcio’s knickers.

If you like Benny Hill, then there’s a good chance that you’ll enjoy Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii. This is fairly silly, but good natured stuff, and for those of us who remember Frankie fondly, it’s wonderful to see him again.

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Dentist in the Chair (1960)

“Anyway, I saw her first.”

Dentist in the Chair is an unremarkable vintage British comedy, and if you have any sort of dental phobia, this film is likely to make it worse. The action is set in King Alfred Hospital’s School of Dentistry, and concerns three dental students, David Cookson (Bob Monkhouse), Brian Dexter (Ronnie Stevens) and the Dean’s niece Peggy Travers (Peggy Cummins). The film’s other main character is incompetent, but lovable crook Sam Field (Kenneth Connor from Carry On fame) who robs a dentist’s office by mistake. When Sam, who thought he was robbing a jewelry shop, realizes that he’s stuck with a load of dental instruments, he decides to go to the dental college and sell the hot equipment at rock bottom prices.

Although Dentist in the Chair is a comedy film, it never really rises beyond being mildly amusing. There’s one overly long scene that involves balloons and laughing gas, and quite a bit of the film is devoted to the comedy aspect of watching members of the unsuspecting public volunteer for dental work courtesy of the dental students. If you have a dental phobia, these scenes will make you cringe (“I’ve just pulled out a totally innocent tooth“). One of the biggest problems with the film seems to be with the script. Three of the four lead roles, those of the dental students, just aren’t funny. So we are left with Kenneth Connor carrying the film’s comedy. Bob Monkhouse, who had a later, long successful television career as a game-show host, just doesn’t seem comfortable in this role. He’s cast as a dental student who’s basically straight-laced and conventional, but then there are wolfish moments with the shapely Peggy Cummins. Directed by Don Chaffey, and based on the novel by Matthew Finch, this foray into the world of dental comedy is not successful, unlike the Doctor films that generated sequels for years.

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The Amorous Mr. Prawn (1962)

“Before I went abroad, you made some immoral suggestions.”

Stationed at a remote army outpost in Scotland, and at the end of his military career, General Sir Hamish Fitzadam (Cecil Parker) and his wife, Dodo (Joan Greenwood) wish to buy a retirement cottage. Even with the general’s pension, they still need 700 pounds to complete the purchase. When General Fitzadam is called away for several months on military exercises, in his absence Dodo concocts a plan to earn the necessary money by converting their majestic military residence into a bed and breakfast. Dodo puts all those years of being a military wife to a new use as she plans and conducts “Operation Loot.” Left with a skeleton staff of 5 soldiers, Dodo at first resorts to blackmail to ensure the soldiers’ cooperation, but after two wealthy American guests arrive, the 5 soldiers discover that their new jobs are so lucrative, it makes their army pay seem a pittance in comparison.

The Amorous Mr. Prawn (AKA The Amorous Prawn), directed by Anthony Kimmins, is a comedy of manners blended with affectionate farce reminiscent of the wonderfully funny plays of Alan Ayckbourn. There are many familiar faces from the period: Derek Nimmo is Private Willie Maltravers–an army cook who longs to venture into more adventurous cuisine, Private Susie Tidmarsh (Liz Fraser) poses as the maid, and Corporal Sidney Green (Ian Carmichael) masquerades as the butler. Gravelly-voiced Joan Greenwood is perfection as the affectionate, loyal general’s wife. The film’s low-key, good-natured style is married with elements of local colour, and the result is a charming vintage comedy. Dennis Price plays the small but significant role of oily guest–Mr. Prawn.

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