Monday, 28 September 2015

My Top Ten Carry On Films: Number 4!

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!  

Now it was inevitable that this next film would appear in my top five. However, as it seems to be nearly everyone's all time favourite, it's position at number four might prove controversial. Coming in at Number Four is: Carry On Abroad!

Carry On Abroad is a rip-roaring, glorious romp. The film taps into a common theme at the time as more and more British holidaymakers were taking their adventurous first steps towards a foreign holiday. Taking a bunch of British stereotypes and throwing them into all kind of continental catastrophes was a master stroke and the script, as usual by Talbot Rothwell, is firing on all cylinders, never missing an opportunity to lambast either us Brits or our continental cousins.

The film is also helped along by a stunning roster of brilliant Carry On regulars. Indeed, it is the last outing for pretty much the complete 1970s Carry On line up. Sadly, this would be Charles Hawtrey's last film. His character, Eustace Tuttle, while hilarious and beautifully eccentric, is also a painful send up of Hawtrey's own existence at this point in turn - the alcoholic mummy's boy. Knowing now what was happening off screen and what the future would hold for Hawtrey, it is a difficult watch.

The other regulars are all on tip top form. Kenneth Williams plays Stuart Farquhar, the Wundatours courier responsible for the enjoyment of a party of British tourists heading off to the little known Spanish island of Elsbells (!) for a long weekend of sun, sea and sangria. Williams is ably assisted by the glamorous Gail Grainger, who's single appearance in the Carry Ons is assured and well acted. They form an unlikely romantic double act towards the end of the film but it's all good fun. "Miss Plunkett! You are squashing my itenary!"

At the heart of Abroad are the relationships of two middle aged couples, both going through certain comic difficulties! Vic and Cora Flange (again !) are beautifully brought to life by stalwarts Sid James and Joan Sims. Vic had planned this jaunt as a naughty weekend for himself and Sadie Tompkins (Barbara Windsor) however wife Cora decides to join him at the last minute, putting a spanner in the works. Sid and Joan are very believable as husband and wife. Their scenes are completely natural and honest. You just know they like each other and are having a great time. They make a great double act behind the bar in Sid's pub although perhaps my favourite scene of all is Sid's shattering realisation that "they've put the bloody glass in!" Joan is shrieking with laughter by this stage of the game and for me that was real, it was way beyond any actual acting!

The other couple are Stanley and Evelyn Blunt, played by Kenneth Connor and June Whitfield. Connor as usual by this stage, is playing a rather randy little man and this time he is blessed with an uptight wife who eventually finds herself in the arms of hotel barman Ray Brooks. Connor and Whitfield work wonderfully together throughout. Their scene with Sims and James over dinner is now a Carry On classic. "I tried it once and didn't like it...Your only child I presume?" It always makes me laugh!

Windsor's love interest (apart from Sid) is played by guest star Jimmy Logan. Jimmy was a wonderful Scottish all round entertainer and he brings a touch of that magic to this film. He is a great addition and his role as Bert Conway is oh so much better than the one he was saddled with in the next film, Carry On Girls. The less said about that the better. Logan and Windsor are great together and I love their cheeky banter.

Bernard Bresslaw plays a monk, Brother Bernard, who ends up finding the lure of fellow holidaymaker Carol Hawkins too much and ditches his faith, much to the horror of his superior, played by the lovely character actor Derek Francis. Carol Hawkins, in the first of her two Carry Ons, plays Marge opposite Sally Geeson as Lily. For most of the film they form a foursome with Robin and Nicholas (John Clive and David Kernan). They are very obviously a gay couple although it is never really very clear what's going on! Eventually Sally Geeson's Lily tempts Nicholas away from the camp Robin who gets suitably sloshed at the farewell party.

Peter Butterworth has a superb part as hotel manager Pepe (or is it Mario?) Back after some blink and you'll miss them cameos, Butterworth puts in a terrific, energetic performance throughout. In many scenes he steals the show. He is assisted by son Georgio (Brooks) and his fiery wife Floella, played by Hattie Jacques. Jacques and Butterworth are hilarious as the inept double act, offering the Brits boringly familiar food and an unfinished hotel. 

Of course nothing goes to plan. The weather is awful, most of the holidaymakers end up in jail and the hotel eventually falls down around their ears in an infamous finale. All ends well though as everyone is reunited at Sid and Joan's pub for a tot of Santa Cecilia's Elixir and the best lock in you could ever imagine. It probably provides the most satisfying conclusion to any of the Carry Ons.

The film also boasts some lovely cameos from Patsy Rowlands, Alan Curtis, Amelia Bayntun and Olga Lowe as the owner of the local Elsbells brothel. A great cast, a great script and a wonderful Carry On film.

So what, if anything did I not like about Abroad?

While all the regulars are on fine form, it is always tinged with sadness for me due to the sad demise of Charles Hawtrey. The character they created for him in Abroad is somewhat cruel given his own personal circumstances. Abroad also marks the start of bigger and bigger supporting turns for Jack Douglas. I admit straight away that Douglas never quite worked for me in the Carry Ons. I'm not sure what he brought to the series but Rogers and Thomas seemed to like it. There is a Jim Dale shaped hole in Abroad unfortunately. Despite Rogers and Thomas being adept at casting and making these films, they never quite managed to replace their youthful, energetic male juvenile lead. I also think the characters of Robin and Nicholas are pretty dreadful and add nothing to proceedings.

Despite these minor quibbles, Abroad is probably one of the Carry Ons I watch the most. It never loses its appeal and is definitely up their with the very best. Do you agree?

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