Sunday 24 January 2016

Carry On Behind: A Guilty Pleasure

I love Carry On Behind. I know I shouldn't. I know it's scraping the bottom of the barrel but I just can't help myself. At a time when Carry On humour was being swiftly replaced by Robin Askwith going a whole lot further up at Elstree, Behind came along and (almost) returned the team to pole position.

Behind came in the wake of several big name departures. Although perhaps it wasn't known as such at the time, Carry On Dick had seen the last big screen Carry On contributions from stalwarts Sid James, Hattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor (Barbara would return for That's Carry On in 1977 but that's not an original film in my mind). It was also the last credit for writer Talbot Rothwell who bowed out after an eleven year association with the series due to ill health.

Despite bringing on board a new writer and replacing several old, well loved faces with new actors, Carry On Behind does succeed on many levels. Sure it's not up there with the likes of Khyber, Camping or Cleo, but in my opinion it's better than Girls and Dick and miles ahead of the films that followed. I think we have to thank Dave Freeman for a lot of this. His script stayed true to the Rothwell legacy and while it pushed things further than perhaps some fans would have liked (there's more flesh on display than in some previous efforts) I think it is an effective homage to Carry on Camping and Tolly Rothwell's style of writing.

The regular team members who do appear are given good roles, on the whole. Kenneth Williams grabs the starring role of Professor Roland Crump with both hands and gives it his all. The usual indignities befall Williams during the film and I'm sure falling in that "cesspit" was bitterly resented! He did forge a wonderful double act with unlikely Carry On star and Williams love interest Elke Sommer. Sommer, who had worked for Peter Rogers' wife Betty Box on the Percy films, does well as Professor Anna Vooshka and Freeman certainly makes the most of the language barrier and continental misunderstandings.

Other regulars also grab plum roles. Bernard Bresslaw, in his last appearance in the series, takes third billing as henpecked husband Arthur Upmore. It's great to see the talented Bernie get plenty of screen time although you can't help but feel he misses Sid. Playing Bernie's wife in the film is the much welcome Patsy Rowlands, back for her ninth and also final film with the team. This is one of Patsy's biggest supporting roles in the Carry Ons and she works well teamed up with Bernard. Why she wasn't billed as a star and part of the main team for this film I'll never know. I also don't know why neither actor appeared in the following film, Carry On England? Was it out of respect for Sid following his sad death the same year?

Kenneth Connor is on superb form as the ripe, randy old Major Leap who runs the campsite. He gets into all sorts of comic misadventures and fails with any lady who comes anywhere near him. By this stage Connor seemed happy to assume the mantle of older character player and he excels in Carry On Behind. While it is great to also have Peter Butterworth and Joan Sims in the cast, they do feel a tad sidelined and their talents slightly wasted. Neither has very much to do although they do share some lovely scenes together when reunited after years as an estranged husband and wife. Both actors demonstrate how well they could actually act when not struggling through some of the baser-level innuendos. Poor Joan spent her last years in the Carry Ons playing increasingly shrewish old harpies and Behind is no exception.

Of the new faces joining the team Windsor Davies is probably the most successful as butcher Fred Ramsden. This role has Sid James written all over it but Windsor puts his own spin on it and is very convincing. He also forms a pretty good double act with regular supporting actor Jack Douglas. We also get supporting roles from familiar television faces Ian Lavender and Adrienne Posta as a young couple with a very cheeky wolfhound! It's a shame both actors are reduced to fairly small roles in Behind. Lavender fills the Jim Dale role well while Posta is very obviously playing a Barbara Windsor type in this film. I'd have liked more of them.

I also think the pairing of Sherrie Hewson and Carol Hawkins is particularly effective. They play two young, rather opportunistic women out on the make and the take. As well as adding the necessary glamour to proceedings they share several funny scenes with Douglas and Davies. Behind also marked a return to Carry On for the lovely Liz Fraser after twelve years away. Sadly she is relegated to brief scenes that top and tail the film and they add little to the story. Having Liz back in the gang should have been a cause for celebration but I don't think it really worked.

The film, as with most of the very best Carry Ons, does not rely too heavily on a plot of any kind. It is very much a Carry On Camping 2 and works well on that level. I can't help but think if the series had continued in this vein with Dave Freeman in charge of the scripts, it would perhaps have produced several more half decent films before the end of the original run. For some inexplicable reason Freeman was not invited back to write the next film in the series. I think everyone would agree this was a mistake, given the substandard quality of the Carry On England script.

So there you go, my defence of Carry On Behind. i think it deserves to be remembered as the last of the classic Carry On films and I always enjoy a good wallow in it's dubious glories!

You can read why Carry On Behind makes it into my Top Ten Carry Ons here

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1 comment:

  1. Yes I think it's much better than expected, particularly for such a late Carry On.