Thursday 18 April 2019

Carrying On with … Crooks in Cloisters!

It's time to take a look at yet another classic British comedy film with strong Carry On connections. Crooks in Cloisters, made in 1963 and starring Ronald Fraser, has recently premiered on the ever excellent channel, Talking Pictures TV. So it seems the perfect time to  feature it on Carry On Blogging. 

What's it about?

After pulling off a small train robbery, 'Little Walter' and his gang are forced to hide out on a remote Cornish island in an abandoned monastery, disguised as monks. With them comes 'Bikini' (Walter's girlfriend, who is given the job of cook to the group, despite never having cooked in her life. After a few initial setbacks, they slowly adjust to their new contemplative life of tending animals and crops, surviving the added tribulations of visits by a group of tourists and two of the real monks who had been forced to sell the monastery after falling on hard times, including Brother Lucius.

Gradually the gang adjusts to its new pastoral life, which turns out to be much to their liking. A return to a life In the city less appealing by the day. With the help of Phineas, a fisherman, they continue to receive and dispose of stolen goods. The crooks change and are kinder and gentler but 'Brother' Squirts begins to place bets on the dogs and the police become suspicious. When Walter decides it is safe to leave none of them want to go including Willy (Hayes), who has fallen for June, Phineas's granddaughter; these two manage to get away safely together. Walter gives the deeds of the island to the real monks who had originally owned the island and just as the rest of the gang say goodbye they see the police waiting for them.

Carry On Faces?

I can't go much further without mentioning Barbara Windsor's leading role as Bikini. Following her great success in Sparrow's Can't Sing, Barbara was hot property and this film showed off her comedic flair. It's no surprise that she was soon cast in a Carry On. Co-starring with Barbara is her Carry On Spying pal Bernard Cribbins. Bernard also starred in Carry On Jack and Columbus.

Future King Rat and all round entertainer Davy Kaye plays Specs in the film. He had supporting roles in two Carry Ons - as the Undertaker in Carry On Cowboy and Benny the Bookmaker in At Your Convenience. Future Carry On England and Carry On Laughing actor Melvyn Hayes appears as Willy. Hayes was already a star thanks to appearances in several Cliff Richard films. And future Steptoe and Son legend Wilfrid Brambell co-stars as Phineas. Wilfrid had a rather brief if memorable cameo in Carry On Again Doctor in 1969.

Two further, small mentions to make. Norman Chappell, an instantly recognisable character actor, plays Benson in Crooks in Cloisters. Norman played Albright in Carry On Cabby and returned for small roles in Carry On Henry and Carry On Laughing. He was also in Carry On Loving but sadly his role was cut from the final print. Finally, future Dad's Army great Arnold Ridley appears in the role of a Newsagent. Arnold went on to cameo in Carry On Girls as a councillor ten years later.

Did You Know?

The film features early supporting roles for two future stars - Francesca Annis plays Wilfrid Brambell's daughter June while Corin Redgrave, part of the famous Redgrave acting dynasty crops up as Brother Lucius.

Barbara Windsor credits Bernard Cribbins as helping her a great deal during the making of Crooks in Cloisters. The pair became close friends and met up again the same year in Carry On Spying, Barbara's first in the series.

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