Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Five Reasons Why I Love … Carry On Abroad


Carry On Abroad has long been one of my favourite films in the entire series. Indeed, for many it is the last great Carry On of them all. Abroad is jam packed with team favourites and boasts a cracking script from an on form Talbot Rothwell. All the stars aligned, as it were and it's probably fair to say nothing would ever be the same again as the screen went black on that boozy lock in at Sid and Joan's pub.

Abroad sees the Carry Ons, the most British of film traditions, take a swipe at the modern 1970s trend of cheap package holidays in foreign parts. What better than sending our favourite gang of British eccentrics to foreign climbs, care of the Pinewood Studios car park and back lot? Every cliche is there and most of the cast are on fire. While Abroad does have its downsides, it's uniformly superb. What would I change? Well the portrayal of Charles Hawtrey's character as an alcoholic loner and mummy's boy was a little too close for comfort and very sadly proved to be the last outing for that most gifted and unique of cinema actors. 

So why do I love Abroad so much? Well here are five reasons…




The gang's all here



Abroad was the last time the main team was all together. Ok, Jim Dale had left three years earlier after Again Doctor but all the main 70s regulars climbed aboard for a jolly holiday in Els Bells. Well almost. Sid James, Joan Sims, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Connor, Bernard Bresslaw, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques and Peter Butterworth are all present and correct and it's a beautiful sight to behold.


A gaggle of great guest stars



While one of the joys of the Carry Ons was seeing the same recognisable faces turn up again and again in different costumes, sometimes it was also good to freshen things up. Abroad does this brilliantly and nobody did it better than Scottish actor and entertainer Jimmy Logan as cheeky chappie Bert Conway. Jimmy is full of energy and charm and really adds something new to the mix. Also along for the fun is national treasure June Whitfield, returning to the series for the first time since Carry On Nurse nearly fifteen years earlier. June is sublime as the uptight, middle class wife of Kenneth Connor who transforms into a bit of a goer after an afternoon on the fizz with Spanish lothario Ray Brooks! Abroad also features some lovely supporting turns from the likes of Sally Geeson and Carol Hawkins as bright young holidaymakers Lily and Marge while Gail Grainger adds class to the cast as Kenneth Williams' glamorous assistant Miss Moira Plunkett. 



A spot of satire


Sometimes the Carry Ons, and the later Carry Ons in particular, were one dimensional knockabout farces. Earlier efforts could be a touch more clever, with the likes of Spying, Screaming and Khyber spoofing well known film franchises. With Abroad, the Carry On team  poked fun at a real life trend which threatened an aspect of British life the Carry Ons had played to for over a decade. With the rise of the sometimes dubious package holiday overseas, the traditional British seaside resort had seen better days. So what better than packing a bunch of end of the pier British eccentrics off to a fictitious and rather grotty Spanish island full of stereotypes and half-finished hotels. As usual though the English eccentrics are painted as even more ridiculous than the foreigners. And it works a treat.


The brilliant Butterworth



If there is one thing the Carry Ons had lacked in the early 1970s it was the presence of the excellent Peter Butterworth. A scene stealer during several of the later 1960s series entries, Butterworth was always a supporting player but stole scenes from the likes of Harry H Corbett, Kenneth Williams and Sid James. Unusually for an actor who was very much a part of the top team, Peter all but disappeared from several films from 1970 onwards, relegated to brief, often uncredited cameos. Blink and you'll miss him in Carry On Loving, Carry On Henry and Carry On Again Doctor. Carry On Abroad saw a brilliant return to form for Butterworth with a starring role as Spanish hotelier cum waiter cum concierge Pepe…or is it Mario? Peter works so hard throughout Abroad and is rarely off screen. It's an energetic tour de force full of one liners, great reaction shots and endless physical comedy.




Vic and Cora Flange



At the heart of Carry On Abroad is a fine comedy double act in Sid James and Joan Sims as Vic and Cora Flange. Sid and Joan were my ultimate Carry On pairing and the two actors go way beyond performance many times, clearly having a whale of a time together and often their laughter feels very real. James and Sims worked together many times in the Carry Ons, often as boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife and Abroad is the pinnacle of this. Yes they would make two further films together, but this is the best, for me. There is the usual nagging and carping between the pair but there is also real heart. While Vic fancies a bit with Barbara's Sadie Tompkins and Cora is tempted by Kenneth Connor's bored husband Stanley Blunt, the Flanges are brought back together again by the end of the film thanks to the blooding windows! Sid is firing on all cylinders here but Joan steals the film with her rather charming, very real portrayal as a frustrated, middle aged lady craving a little happiness. They are magnificent together.



So those are some of many reasons why Carry On Abroad is one of my all time favourite Carry Ons. Do you agree?


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