Sunday, 19 April 2015

My Top Ten Carry On Films: Number 3!

I'm going to attempt to figure out what my absolute favourite Carry On films of all time are and I will be publishing the results on this blog. This is going to be a hard task for me as I love so many of these films that my favourites change on a regular basis. There will be a few I can immediately discount, none of which will be much of a surprise I'm sure. Others will be more difficult to choose between.

What I intend to do is come up with my top ten Carry Ons and reveal them blog by blog until I get to my all time number one. I'll make it clear that this is just down to my own personal choice and mainly due to personal feelings or memories attached to particular films. It should be an interesting project and I hope that as I go through them you will all feel free to comment and agree/disagree as you see fit!  

It's getting very serious now as we creep up on the top spot. As far as I'm concerned the next two in my countdown are pretty much interchangeable. Both are classics, not only of the Carry On series but of British cinema. At number three is Carry On Up The Khyber!

Up The Khyber is about as British as you can get. It's a send up of all the stiff upper lip British empire films and is wonderfully funny. It is the Carry On team at their peak, Gerald Thomas at his peak and Talbot Rothwell at his funniest. The perfect comedy team gels together and it is laugh out loud funny from beginning to end.

The film follows the crumbling last days of empire. The British are blissfully unaware that the natives are revolting. The Devils in Skirts or The Third Foot and Mouth as we know them, risk losing power in India after Bungdit Din and his Burpas (yes, really) find proof that the English wear underpants under their kilts. The international incident comes to pass (as it were) thanks to hapless Private Widdle (Charles Hawtrey). 

At the heart of Khyber is a truly magnificent comic performance from stalwart Kenneth Williams as Randi Lal, The Khasi of Kalabar. It's Kenneth on his best nostril-flaring, rip-roaring form and he forms a deliciously evil double act with Bernard Bresslaw. Angela Douglas, in her last appearance in the series, plays The Khasi's daughter Princess Jelhi who flouts her father, falls in love with British officer Captain Keene and switches allegiance.

The British lot are headed up by the wonderful Sid James who was just born to play Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond. He's the all powerful dignitary but also still the cockney wide boy from Hancock's Half Hour. It's a tremendous performance which is matched every step of the way by Joan Sims as Lady Ruff-Diamond. It is one of Joan's best performances, swooping from posh to common and back again. "Oh he didn't half crack that one, did he not?!" Joan's scenes with Kenneth Williams have gone into legend. Two comedy icons firing on all cylinders. 

Roy Castle steps into Jim Dale's vacant shoes to play the romantic lead, Captain Keene. Castle does well as the stiff upper lipped Keene and forms a great double act with Terry Scott as Seargant Major MacNutt. Julian Holloway is also in fine form as Sid's assistant, Shorthouse.

Special mention must go to Peter Butterworth, who steals every scene he appears in, as the dubious missionary Brother Belcher. He is all high morals and righteousness in public but prone to the pleasures of the flesh behind closed doors. He's also fond of making a few bob on the side! Peter is perfect in this role and the scenes of Butterworth, Castle, Scott and Hawtrey invading enemy territory are great fun!

The highlight of Khyber has to be the famous dining room sequence. While Williams and Bresslaw attempt to demolish the British residency, Sid and Joan host a dignified dinner party complete with suckling pig and an orchestra. It is British dignity and stubborn stupidity all rolled into one and it is fantastic. Peter Butterworth mugs like crazy and works his socks off as the only dinner guest openly aware of the destruction around him. Joan Sims has the line of the scene in an inspired addition to the script "I seem to have got a little plastered!" as huge chunks of ceiling fall around her! Brilliant stuff.

One other line of note goes to Bernard Bresslaw, when trying to get rid of Cardew Robinson's Fakir. "Fakir, Off!" Bresslaw leaves enough of a pause between the two words to just get away with that one!

The film ends in typically Carry On style, with Sid, Joan and the Brits out on top. In a classic ending, they survey the destruction and Sid dismisses it with the line "Don't worry, we'll clear it up in the morning". The last word goes to Peter Butterworth as the "I'm backing Britain" slogan appears on a fluttering Union Jack. 

Tremendous comedy, superlative performances and a Carry On film worthy of its place as a bona fide classic of British film. 

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