Thursday, 21 May 2015

Scraping the bottom of the Carry On barrel

Carry On Emmannuelle. I have been putting off writing about it mainly because I didn't know where to begin. I don't really know anyone who likes the film and it reaffirms my belief that the Carry Ons should have come to an end by 1975. Nevertheless, I'll persist and see what I can come up with.

While any attempt to bring the likes of Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims and Peter Butterworth together on screen must always be welcomed with open arms, Carry On Emmannuelle is one film I wish they had all turned down. After all, these four stalwarts can hardly have been short of other offers at the time. So why did they get involved in this mess of a film? Loyalty to each other, to Rogers and Thomas? Most probably.

Kenneth Williams' hatred of the film is well documented in his diaries. He loathed the script and found the whole job an ordeal and an indignity. While Kenneth was often prone to exaggeration, I can't really find fault in anything he had to say about it. He only relented and agreed to star when offered more money than usual. I think he did feel loyalty towards Gerald Thomas in particular and that must have played a part. Kenneth's role in the film is dreadful and he has several painful scenes with his on-screen wife, played by newcomer Suzanne Danielle. 

Danielle, who would go on to marry the golfer Sam Torrance, does her best with the title role and is surprisingly self-assured given her young age and lack of experience at the time. It must have been fairly daunting for her to come into such a film in a starring role opposite so many screen legends with decades of experience under their belts. She does her best yet the film is still woeful. Larry Dann is also terribly miscast as Theodore who becomes obsessed with Emmannuelle. This plot strand does, however, give us a few cherished moments of Beryl Reid in a Carry On film. A wonderful piece of casting, just a shame Ms Reid hadn't appeared in a decent entry in the franchise instead of this muck.

The depleted band of regular stars battle against a filthy script which is dreadfully slow moving and wastes their considerable talents. It is actually quite upsetting to see quality actors like Joan Sims and Peter Butterworth struggling through such an unpleasant experience. Compared to earlier glories such as Screaming, Camping and Khyber, this is not just scraping the bottom of the barrel, it's underneath it!

Kenneth Connor adds a lively spot of cheeky charm as the chauffeur but yet again his appearances are strictly limited and he just doesn't seem at home with the material. Jack Douglas is also in the film and thankfully for a change he isn't stuck with his awful Alf persona. Douglas is actually not too bad in this "straight" turn as the butler. These are slim pickings though. The vast majority of the film is a dreadful, sprawling mess.

While it was a nice touch to include Eric Barker, a stalwart from the very first Carry On twenty years before, it is a depressing experience as he is limited to a wordless cameo and really does not look well. Victor Maddern also pops up for a dialogue free scene where he romances Joan SIms in a launderette. It is probably the high spot of the film.

The main problem with Emmannuelle is the same issue that struck down Carry On England. The film is an uneasy, queasy mix of traditional Carry On coupled with what had become the norm in 70s sex comedies at the time. It tries to keep up with changing attitudes and ideals but fails miserably. The dialogue, while not shocking, is still pretty vulgar and lacks any attempt at clever comedy. The situations are tired and worn and while the film is meant to spoof classic soft porn of the era, it lacks any kind of sexiness whatsoever. 

In the end Emmannuelle was a complete flop. It failed to appeal to the traditional Carry On audience while also not attracting those who wanted something a bit edgier that pushed the boundaries. Thankfully it is rarely shown today and I for one am pleased to pretend it never actually happened.

Does anybody actually like Carry On Emmannuelle? Get in touch with your views.

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