Not wild about this one. Sometimes it's funny, but it's doing its best to hide that fact with sleaze.
I'm starting to worry about Talbot Rothwell. The obvious thing to talk about here is the film's relationship with women, which is extreme enough to make me speculate about Rothwell himself. I normally disapprove of this, but really. Women in this film exist in two varieties:
(a) sexy young things to be ogled, or
(b) depressing wet blankets who live to nag.
Barbara Windsor shows slight signs of one day moving from (a) to (b), but those are the two basic categorisations. There's no real difference in this film between a wife (Joan Sims, June Whitfield) and a mother (Amelia Bayntun, Hattie Jacques), except that the latter are less unpleasant and don't make their sons sexually frustrated. Incidentally both of those mothers are played by actresses younger than their respective sons, by a margin of three years for Jacques and Peter Butterworth and of five years for Bayntun and Charles Hawtrey.
It's also worth noting that in addition to making Whitfield frigid and Sims a battleaxe, Rothwell also decides to throw in references to women who serially murder their husbands. The other half of the equation though is the film's attitude to marriage and adultery. Sid James here is as morally reprehensible as he's ever been. He's more likeable as a villain. At the beginning he's already booked holiday tickets for an adulterous weekend with Windsor, he never stops leering over anything in a skirt and some of his dialogue is actually offensive. "This is the wife. Don't laugh." Furthermore, as far as I can tell, we're supposed to approve. Sims is a nagging cow, you see... except that everything she says is true and I can't see any evidence that she'd be anything but sweetness and light if James were to start behaving himself.
This runs through the whole film. Charles Hawtrey has a heterosexual reaction to Barbara Windsor's underwear! Hawtrey, I ask you! Jimmy Logan plays the most tiresome character in any Carry On film, barely being able to talk about anything but sex. The Mediterranean island of Elsbels has a brothel and/or strip joint, a seller of aphrodisiacs and another of dirty postcards. The best way to get out of prison is to provide sex, which Gail Grainger apparently does.
This would be unwatchable if it weren't for the final act. The husbands fail to get their ends away and instead marital harmony is restored... but disturbingly, the main factor in this again appears to be adultery. Joan Sims gets heavy flirting from Kenneth Connor, while June Whitfield shags the waiter. Now in fairness you could see this as a triumph for the fair sex, who clearly take much more away from this holiday than do their menfolk, but equally you could see it implying that the fundamental problem with marriage is that it contains a nagging bitch who's not giving her husband what he wants. (I'm translating from Rothwell-ese here. I'm not agreeing with the sentiment, but merely trying to analyse it.) Neither James nor Connor changes an iota. It's Sims and especially Whitfield who have to change instead.
I'm probably overstating my case. The final act to some extent subverts the film's earlier misogyny. Nevertheless all this sexism has an even more basic problem, in that it's not even funny. Why should it be amusing to see Sid James being a sex pest? Where's the entertainment in Jimmy sodding Logan? There are quite a lot of laughs in this film, if you can beat your head into a state receptive to them, but almost every single one is from someone with no interest in sex. Peter Butterworth gets one of his best roles. Charles Hawtrey is Charles Hawtrey. June Whitfield as a frigid cow is the best thing in the movie. The priests are a delight.
Cutting out all the sleaze would turn this into one of the funniest Carry Ons yet, but the resulting film would be about twenty minutes long.
While I'm on the subject, by the way, of course there's nudity. From behind, it's unembarrassed. If it has boobs, then it'll be a fleeting glimpse from the side or through a shower door. Oh, and almost uniquely there are a couple of scenes in which Barbara Windsor's cleavage is eye-catching.
Leaving aside all that though, there's a lot of good here. It's the joint holder with the previous year's Carry On Matron
of the prize for "most regulars in a single movie", with Joan Sims, Kenneth Williams, Barbara Windsor, Peter Butterworth, Kenneth Connor, Hattie Jacques, Bernard Bresslaw, Patsy Rowlands, Sid James, Jack Douglas and Charles Hawtrey. (They'd also wanted Valerie Leon and Madeline Smith... the former's replacement is Gail Grainger and she's terrible.) If nothing else, it's a landmark for being the final film of Hawtrey's career, thanks to a drinking problem. Whitfield's back for the first time in thirteen years. The most miscellaneous bit of casting trivia though is that the brothel keeper is Olga Lowe, who was one of the first actresses to work with Sid James when he came to Britain in 1946 and then thirty years later was on stage with him in Sunderland the night he died.
It would be difficult to get no laughs out of that lot. Jacques for instance is so good as an excitable Mediterranean harridan that initially I wasn't even sure it was her. There's something so right about Hawtrey and his mother that I can't believe he didn't have one in every film. Sid James and the aphrodisiac made me laugh. Bresslaw's plot thread as a monk with doubts about his vows of celibacy is quite sweet, especially when he's sharing screen time with his abbot. Also, more fundamentally, the film's central gag of a terrible hotel is entertaining and in particular its montage of overlapping complaints to the switchboard is ingenious.
As an aside, it can be difficult to keep track of the contemporary Carry Ons, because they spawn sub-series. (A less kind description would be "ripping themselves off".) Everyone knows about the four medical ones (Doctor
but this is another such series, about holidays (Camping
Overall, patchy. I strongly disliked it, but parts of it are excellent. The last half-hour is a waste of time, mind you. It's also worth noting that there's a comparatively understated portrayal of a gay man in here, although I'm judging by Carry On standards there and by any normal measure he's an uptight twat. Would I recommend it? Hell, no. However if you've worked your way through all the others, there's enough good stuff here that you won't be wasting your time.