Wednesday 27 May 2015

Not Quite A Carry On: The Big Job

I have decided to write about some of the other films Rogers and Thomas made during their prolific careers. Apart from their 31 Carry Ons together, the famous producer/director team also made many other films, particularly during their peak in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I have already blogged about one of my favourites, the sprightly Nurse On Wheels and the big screen version of sitcom favourite, Bless This House. Now I am going to look the classic crime caper, The Big Job.

I love The Big Job. Apparently it was an old script that had been knocking about for some time and Peter Rogers seized upon the opportunity to turn it into a quick release in between Carry Ons. The Big Job was the last of a long run of comedy films Rogers and Thomas made as a side line to the Carry Ons. Released in 1965, it came just as the Carry On films were reaching their peak in popularity. Carry On Cleo had just been released and the glories of Cowboy and Screaming were just around the corner.

Rogers engaged regular Carry On scribe Talbot Rothwell to breathe new life into The Big Job. It is a classic comedy about a bunch of petty criminals who are caught mid bank robbery, put away for a long stretch and come out determined to get their hands on the loot once again. The money was stashed in a tree shortly before the gang were captured by the police and on tracking it down fifteen years later, quickly discover that the intervening years have seen a housing estate spring up around the tree. What's worse is that the tree is now situated in the yard of a police station.

The film basically follows the gang's attempts to get at the money. Of course their pathetic attempts are constantly foiled. There is nothing new in this film but as always with a comedy film from Rogers and Thomas, it is the cast that raises the material into a different league. The Big Job is no exception. Although not an official Carry On, the film features three of the best actors to grace the series in Sid James, Joan Sims and Jim Dale. 

Sid plays the ring leader of the criminal gang, one George Brain. This is perfect casting as Sid had often played characters in both comedy and more serious films that dodged the long arm of the law. Joining him in this instance are regular co-star Lance Percival and that wonderful comedian, Dick Emery. Sadly this is the only film Dick made for Rogers and Thomas which is a great shame. He was a natural for this kind of comedy and I think it would have been great to see him in a Carry On. Also starring is the gorgeous Sylvia Syms as Sid's permanently sidelined girlfriend. For once Sid's character really isn't interested in women. It's the thrill of the loot that's his driving passion here. Syms is great opposite Sid and the others, a real class act.

Of course Sylvia isn't the only Ms S(y)ims in this film. Carry On regular Joan grabs a prime role as predatory landlady Mildred Gamely. The gang lodge with Mildred and her sex kitten daughter, brought to life by future fashion designer Edina Ronay. Edina would work for Rogers and Thomas again the same year when she took the part of Dolores in Carry On Cowboy. She was terrific in Cowboy, her American accent is excellent! Joan eventually gets her claws into Dick (as it were) and reveals herself to be much more of a criminal mastermind than any of the men.

Jim Dale co-stars as another lodger, a local police constable who continually gets on Sid's nerves with his bumbling. Jim has several terrific scenes with Deryck Guyler and the rest of the local policeman's choir. Also appearing are Carry On semi-regulars Wanda Ventham, Michael Ward, Brian Rawlinson and Frank Thornton. 

It might not be high art but I love it. Another cosy comedy film from a bygone era featuring a cast of prime acting talent. Definitely worth a watch if you fancy a burst of classic comedy nostalgia. 

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