Saturday 6 October 2018

Five Reasons Why I Love … Carry On Up The Jungle

Carry On Up The Jungle has never really been at the top of the pile for me but on watching it again after a long time this afternoon, it really made me laugh. Sure, it's not necessarily a classic of the series and several key figures are missing but it's still hilarious in places and gives us some wonderful performances from a handful of brilliant comedy actors.

Although almost completely set in a studio and featuring certain elements which probably wouldn't be condoned these days, it still stands up reasonably well. With a cast featuring Frankie Howerd, Joan Sims, Terry Scott, Bernard Bresslaw, Sid James and Kenneth Connor, what's not to love? Anyway, perhaps it's time for me to reappraise Carry On Up The Jungle, so here, without further ado are five reasons why I've come to love this innuendo-laden journey up the Limpopo! 

Francis is back!

Frankie Howerd was a stand out reason for Carry On Doctor's success two years earlier. Without a doubt Frankie is the very best guest star the Carry Ons ever had. Although he made other films and was considered a good comic actor, Frankie was at heart a comedian, a stand up and a raconteur. The Carry Ons fitted him like a glove. While ostensibly playing characters in both his Carry Ons, Frankie is essentially just giving us a bit of himself, as it were. He sticks to the narrative occasionally, but all our favourite Howerd expressions and catchphrases are there as he consistently and rather beautifully breaks away from the script in a way no other actor could. In Jungle, Frankie makes a triumphant return and reunites with familiar co-stars Joan Sims and Sid James and also forms a deliciously camp and bickering double act with a returning Kenneth Connor. Fabulous stuff. And speaking of Connor…

The return of a Carry On Original…

After a five year break away to pursue other projects, Kenneth Connor rejoined the Carry On team for Jungle and stayed pretty much until the end of the original run in 1978. Kenneth coming back to the team should not be understated - he was there at the very beginning and was the main stand out star of the first six or seven films in the series. The beauty of Kenneth's return in Jungle is that he pretty much picks up as he left off. He's slightly older yes, but Connor is still playing the rather frustrated little man he played in the likes of Teacher, Constable and Regardless. As a major link to past successes, Kenneth Connor is a priceless piece of casting. As I've already mentioned, Kenneth forms a wonderful double act with Frankie Howerd as a pair of bickering ornithologists and it's just magic!

Man. Woman. Bang! 

The role of the fairly mute Tarzan-like character in Jungle was originally mooted for Jim Dale, then the series' leading man and dashing romantic lead. Jim had started to branch out and spread his wings the year before after a concurrent run of starring roles in the Carry Ons. Returning for Again Doctor earlier in 1969, Jim received the script for Jungle and turned it down both due to the lack of dialogue and his renewed desire to do more live theatre. Sadly the cinema-goers of 1970 were therefore denied the spectacle of lovely Jim in a loin cloth but full kudos to Terry Scott for taking on the part of 'Jungle Boy' and really makes it his own. The childlike, innocent character is all Terry's making and is so different from his other characters like Peter Potter in Camping and Dr Prodd in Matron. It's a classic portrayal and despite the fact he was in reality three years older than Joan Sims (who was playing his mother), if you can suspend belief for ninety minutes, it's a highlight of the film. 

Pinewood invention at its best

Looking at it now, it's fairly obvious Carry On Up The Jungle is entirely set in a Pinewood Studios soundstage. The slightly naff attempts at blending real archive footage of jungle wildlife don't really cut it but do provide laughs all of their own. Despite this, credit must be given to the Pinewood technicians and set designers for creating such a lush looking set. The campsite, the jungle backgrounds and particularly the lovely lagoon used for June's meeting with Jungle Boy, are all brilliantly conceived and really make the film. You soon forget that they're not out on location and join in with all the usual highjinks. 

A late arrival who steals the film

Although briefly glimpsed half asleep in the audience at the very beginning of the film, Charles Hawtrey leaves it pretty late to make his first proper appearance. Charles comes into his own in the last twenty minutes of the film after Sid, Frankie and the gang are kidnapped by Valerie Leon's all female tribe. Unveiled as Tonka The Great, it must be one of Charles' best entrances as from all the build up you expect anyone other than Hawtrey and his Oh Hello! Add in Joan's shock and Charles' line "Oh my God, it's the wife!" and you have a classic Carry On moment. Charles is on fine form, twinkling away mischievously and sharing some delightful scenes with Joan Sims. It's a relatively small role for a leading team member but such was the power of Charles Hawtrey that he could wander in in the last half hour and pretty much steal the film! 

So there you have it, five reasons why I think Carry Up The Jungle is a keeper. I hope you've enjoyed it on ITV3 this afternoon, despite all the cuts! 

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  1. Might I add Sids reaction on seeing Joan Sims amply proportioned backside in the shower. If it wasn't for the fact that Sid James never adlibbed I'd of sworn that was a natural reaction