“I say, hold on old chap, we’re British.”
During the 1970s, British holidaymakers returning from abroad often had horror stories to tell of miserable holidays spent in half-finished hotels, so it’s no wonder that the Carry On team decided to take their unique brand of humour to a cheap package tour on the Spanish resort of Elsbels.
The film begins one evening in a pub owned by Vic (Sid James) and Cora (Joan Sims) Flange. Vic is scheduled to take his annual holiday, leaving the pub in the hands of his very capable Missus. While the married couple find separate holidays the most practical choice, Vic can’t wait for his holiday to begin because he’s planned to spend it with local dolly bird, Sadie Tompkins (Barbara Windsor). When Cora sniffs that Vic plans a romantic getaway with the petite, busty blonde, she decides to crash the party and makes Vic take her along on the package tour of four days and five nights to Elsbels. Vic and Cora are just part of a motley assortment of holiday makers led by tour guide Stuart Farquhar (Carry On favourite Kenneth Williams). There’s another married couple, Stanley and Evelyn Blunt (Kenneth Connor and June Whitfield), mummy’s boy Eustace Tuttle (Charles Hawtrey), swinging bachelor Bert Conway (Jimmy Logan) who’s on the lookout for loose crumpet, two young single girls Marge & Lily (Carol Hawkins & Sally Geeson), two single men Robin & Nicholas (John Clive & David Kernan) who have a rather vague relationship, and a horde of monks (including Bernard Bresslaw) who are on the trip to visit the tomb of St Celicia.
Things begin to go wrong immediately, and the not-so-happy holidaymakers have a miserable time. Of course some of the holidaymakers are miserable to begin with, and staying in a hotel that’s only partly finished doesn’t thrill the guests. The hotel is run by the overworked and pathetically eager to please Pepe (Peter Butterworth), his ferocious wife Floella (Hatti Jacques) and their son Georgio (Ray Brooks). Obviously a hotel of this size needs more staff, but what the hotel lacks in staff, Pepe makes up for in ingenuity, serving beans for dinner accompanied by cheap wine, “Spanish-type Australian-French Burgundy, product of Hong Kong.”
A great deal of the humour comes from suggestive double entendre (“Have you got a large one?”) and there are some visual laughs too generated from the shabbily constructed hotel. But in addition to the laughs, there’s some interesting parallels right beneath the plot’s surface. The two married couples are about the same age and their marriages are both textbook cases of different sorts of misery. While lothario Vic would love to dump the wife and run off for a dirty weekend with Sadie, he doesn’t appreciate what he has in his long-suffering companion Cora. Circumstances force the Flanges into the company of the Blunts and their sexless marriage. There’s one scene when Cora struggles with a chair until Stanley comes to her rescue. He’s just settled his nagging, peevish, uptight wife down in the shade when he sees that Cora needs his help, and he’s happy, more than happy to offer his services.
Peter Butterworth’s role of Pepe adds a great deal of fun to the film. When he’s not running around trying to please the unhappy guests, he’s creating lots of laughs with his broken English. For one meal, for example, the holiday makers are served Brown Bristols soup, and Pepe calls Farquhar, “Farqiarse.” Although he’s continually corrected, Pepe can never get it right. Barbara Windsor, an extremely popular Carry On regular seems walled off and minimized by her role in the film, and that’s a shame.
Carry On Abroad isn’t perfect, and it’s not my favourite in the series, but it’s still a wonderful return to the Carry On gang and the many, many laughs they gave their fans. For those who aren’t familiar with Carry On films, Carry On films were made over the course of two decades and featured Carry On regulars who formed the core team.
From director Gerald Thomas.
“Come on, we’re having a leak.”
“You filthy beast. Be off with you before I call the police.”
“Oh shove off. Go rescue somebody else.”
“I want to bloody well assert my manhood.”
“If you take that little strumpet to the party, I’ll take my ankle bracelet back.”
“Havings good times and lettings hairs down.”
“Better watch it. He’ll be pinching your bottom next.”