Saturday 14 January 2017

Guest Blog: My First Carry On


Here's another fantastic guest blog, this time from Paul Baker. Paul has written about his love of Carry On Screaming and the wonderful Fenella Fielding....

The first film I ever saw was Carry on Screaming, which was shown on television at some point in the 1970s. It is still my favourite of all the Carry on Films, and the theme tune is one of my favourites of any film ever.

I was around 5 or 6, it was early evening, the television had been left on and all of the adults were out of the room. The film’s beginning was announced with the title song Carry on Screaming, sung by Ray Pilgrim, with extra vocals by women who literally screamed – each time they did, the words in the titles vibrated. Despite the film title’s obvious horror theme, rather than singing about being ripped apart by monsters, Ray seemed to be singing a love song “Cos when you’re screaming I know that you’re dreaming of me.” I decided that despite the film’s title, this was unlikely to be especially scary so I settled down to watch it, feeling very grown-up and sophisticated. Compared to other Carry On titles, this one seems aimed at attracting a younger, hipper audience (despite being born in the UK Ray sounds rather American), although I suspect that even by 1966 standards, it may have been seen as a bit squaresville at the time, and definitely so by the mid-1970s.

The story involves strange goings-on at the secluded Bide-A-Wee Rest Home, where brother and sister, Dr Orlando Watt (Kenneth Williams) and Valeria (Fenella Fielding) are using a Frankenstein-like monster called Oddbod to kidnap young women who are then turned into mannequins and sold to department stores. A world-weary Detective Sergeant Bung (Harry H Corbett) joins forces with a local lad (Jim Dale), whose girlfriend has been taken, in order to bring them to justice. As a horror parody it references numerous other films: House of Wax, The Mummy, Frankenstein, the Wolfman and Jack the Ripper as well as a couple of popular American sitcoms the Munsters and the Adams Family, both which aired in the mid-1960s and featured strange but lovable families of monsters. The character of Valeria bears a striking resemblance to Morticia Adams or Lily in the Munsters, although Fenella plays a sexier, more subversive character, seducing the Detective (and eventually ending the film as his lover), literally smoking with sensuality in a couple of scenes. Fielding’s famously husky voice is one of the things that elevates this film beyond the other Carry-Ons. 

Being quite young, and still believing in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, I had difficulty distinguishing fiction from reality, so wasn’t sure whether Frankenstein monsters could really regenerate from just a finger, or if in real life people could be frozen solid in a special vat. It was also set in Victorian England (which I didn’t realise at the time), so I took the old costumes and horse and carriages for granted, assuming that this mode of transport was something I was yet to encounter in my own short life. It was also the first time I had ever seen two men in the same bed together (something which my brain filed away for (much) later), in a scene where Harry H Corbett and Jim Dale spent the night in the manor and Valeria tries to kill them with a snake.

It was my first introduction to a set of Carry On staples: Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Charles Hawtrey, Jim Dale, Bernard Bresslaw, Petter Butterworth and Angela Douglas, and for me, part of the fun of the Carry On series was watching old favourites turn up in different films, essentially reprising similar characters. Williams – supercilious and camp; Hawtrey – otherworldy and camp; Joan Sims – long-suffering and nagging; Jim Dale – naïve and heroic. Williams in particular seems to be enjoying himself in one of his most villainous roles, and even when he is finally vanquished and ends up in his own vat of wax, he is jubiliant in shouting out his catch-phrase “Frying Tonight!” Even poor Mrs Bung, who has been frozen in wax doesn’t seem to mind too much – and in the final scene of the film she winks at the camera. Most of the film’s ‘horror’ is camply tongue-in-cheek, although an early scene where Charles Hawtrey’s lavatory attendant is murdered off-screen by Oddbod in a toilet cubicle, stands out as the most sinister and disturbing parts of the film, on several levels. As a child used to fairy tales where the villains are also defeated, I remember finding the fact that Valeria got off completely for her role in the waxwork kidnapping to be a bit troubling, although perhaps having to sleep with Harry H Corbett was its own punishment.

I showed the film to my three nephews over the summer, as part of a ‘horror’ double bill with The Blob. The latter film, unfortunately, was not able to hold their attention (the Blob isn’t in it enough) and they slunk off to play in the garden, although Carry on Screaming kept them watching until the end. Suggestions are welcomed for the next Carry On I should try to get them to watch…


Thanks again to Paul for taking the time to submit his guest blog. If you fancy having a go at a guest blog on a Carry On theme, find out more here
And you can find out more about Fenella's Memoir Shows here

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

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