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Carry on Films

The Pocket Essential Guide

Carry on Films by Mark Campbell
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Infamy! Infamy! They’ve All Got It In For Me! Beginning with the feel-good conscription caper Carry On Sergeant (1958) and finishing up with the much-maligned sex farce Carry On Emmannuelle (1978), producer Peter Rogers and director Gerald Thomas tossed off a record-breaking thirty films, all with that unique ‘naughty but nice’ seaside postcard-style humour. A team of spot-on comedy performers, headed by Kenneth Williams, Sid James, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Connor, provided the great unwashed public with brain-achingly corny gags, ridiculous slapstick antics and seminal scenes of mayhem and speeded-up chicanery that would have brought a smile to the most jaded of palates. What’s in it? Every film examined in detail, with full cast and crew listing, key scenes and dialogue gems, and an informed critique; brief biographies of the major players, TV shows and theatre plays; appendices that include an exhaustive bibliography and an overview of the best Carry On websites around; all rounded off with a fiendish quiz on all things Carry On.
Pocket Essentials; Read online
Title: Carry on Films
Author: Mark Campbell
You know the story – a classic British film series that began in the 1950s, reached its heights in the 1960s and tailed off in quality until it ceased production in the late 1970s; a small, repertory cast of actors and actresses appearing countless times in similar roles; ludicrous scenarios and hilarious dialogue; plenty of heaving bosoms and scantily-clad blondes… but enough of Hammer horror films, let’s talk about the Carry Ons. Britain’s three main film exports – Hammer, Carry On and James Bond – all have one thing in common. Regardless of whether you think they’re good or bad, they all display a constancy of tone and technique that marks them out as being cast from the same mould. Blindfolded, you’d know you were watching a Hammer film by the portentous music, hoof-beat sound effects and stilted dialogue. Or a James Bond by the operatic score and dry delivery of unlikely lines. The same goes for Carry On films. Each and every one of them has the same Tom And Jerry-style ‘comedy’ soundtrack, the same arch delivery of pointed innuendo, the same stereotyped characters. As a friend once said to me, ‘Carry On films are so reassuring.’ And he’s right – even the bad ones can buoy you up, in a resigned, ‘I don’t believe I’m watching this rubbish, but what the heck, I can’t be bothered to turn over’ kind of way. You stop, sit back a little, ponder idly to yourself which Carry On it might be, before either giving in and watching it, or (if you’re made of sterner stuff) switching to reruns of Frasier. The Carry Ons exhibit a primitive magnetism, drawing you into their own little world of schoolboy smut and silly pratfalls in the same way that a snake hypnotises a mouse. Once captured, it’s very diffi- cult to escape.‘Just five more minutes,’ you say to yourself, trying not to think of that huge pile of dirty crockery waiting to be washed. But then you realise you know what’s going to happen next (‘Oh, I remember this,’ you mutter), and you give it a further five minutes. And another five. The fact that most Carry Ons are watched again and again over the years – the scenes burnt into the brain like a channel ident on a plasma screen – adds to their cosy, feel-good appeal.We’re virtually born with all the jokes from Carry On Cleo hardwired into our DNA. The films go beyond simple cinematic entertainments and into the very fabric of our society.They’re as deep-rooted as our national identity, as vital as the air we breathe. They’re icons of pop culture, like The Magic Roundabout or The Beatles.They define who we are. Alternatively, they’re just 31 efficiently made light comedies of a rather old-fashioned kind starring a team of actors and actresses who were very good at what they did but are now mostly all dead.We may laugh at them but let’s be clear about one thing – it’s not because we find them funny. Our laughter is more hard-edged; the sort of sneering laugh that we might bestow on an old Benny Hill Show perhaps, as if to say,‘Is that what they called funny in those days? Oh dear!’ To misquote a 1990s compilation series, we’re not really laughing with the Carry Ons, we’re laughing at them.They’re relics of the past,museum pieces seen through rose-tinted spectacles in which fat people are funny, nurses strip to their undies and frustrated husbands drool over women with unfeasibly large breasts. If there’s a banana skin, someone will slip on it. If there’s a foreigner, he’ll be a villain or a fool. Characters are called Tingle and Bigger and Nookey.The action takes place on a 1950s housing estate in Slough. I mean, it’s all so passé. How can anyone think they’re any good? More pertinently, how can anyone find them funny anymore?

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