I have been writing an occasional series of blogs which attempt to highlight my favourite scene in each of the thirty original Carry On films made between 1958 and 1978. Today I am going to cross off another of my less than favourite series entries, Carry On England.
I might dare to suggest that England is actually worse than the film that followed it, Carry On Emmannuelle. Released in 1976, Carry On England came in the wake of the sad death of Sid James. There were far too many changes to the tried and trusted formula for England to be a success. Too many of the regular cast were either missing or had been replaced. Only Kenneth Connor, Jack Douglas, Peter Butterworth and Joan Sims were present and correct. Despite a starring role for Connor, the others are pretty much restricted to frustrating and low quality cameo roles.
One of the big mistakes made with England was to include a rash of unfamiliar, younger performers who did not have the necessary experience to pull off a Carry On comedy. The likes of Patrick Mower, Judy Geeson, Diane Langton and Melvyn Hayes all did their best but it really didn't work out. Furthermore, the longstanding music composer Eric Rogers missed his first Carry On film in over a decade. Annoyed at cuts to his budget, Rogers chose not to work on the score for England, which instead was produced by Max Harris. The change is noticeable throughout.
Finally, while Talbot Rothwell was no longer well enough to provide a Carry On script, Dave Freeman had stepped in for the previous film, Carry On Behind, and delivered a belter. Instead of hiring Freeman again, Rogers decided to bring in two new writers to the world of Carry On. Sadly, this wasn't a wise decision either.
In an attempt to keep pace with the very popular Confessions films, the Carry Ons adapted a more honest treatment of sex and nudity in England. This film was the first to be awarded a restricted certificate, meaning the core Carry On audience of working class families could not see the picture together. This was due to several scenes featuring prominent nudity from some of the supporting actresses. Despite acquiescing to several cuts, the film was still too much for many regular Carry On fans.
So enough of my grumbling. What's my favourite scene in the mess that is Carry On England? Well, against my better judgement the climax of the film which sees the bumbling characters take part in a shoot out with some rogue German planes is actually quite patriotic. Despite being badly shot, scripted and acted, the scene somehow manages to work on some levels and it actually looks like the cast are enjoying themselves (for a change). Both Kenneth Connor and his co-star Windsor Davies also have good chemistry throughout these scenes.
Honestly though, it could all have been oh so much better!
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