It's funny. I thought it was okay. It suffers in popular perception from being part of the long drawn-out death rattle of the series, with Sid James and Talbot Rothwell now having gone, but I preferred it to Carry On Camping
, Up the Jungle
and possibly Abroad
and Again Doctor
It's not brilliant, mind you. It's yet another iteration of Carry On Camping
, even filmed in the same field. The most noticeable difference is that they have caravans. Dave Freeman's storyline is serviceable enough and has a surprising number of good bits, but it's random and bitty. It feels like a bunch of scenes, not a movie. The different holidaymakers could almost be in different films for all they talk to each other. We have:
(a) Kenneth Williams and Elke Sommer, who are on an archeological expedition to dig up Roman ruins. They're only here because the caravan park is a good spot to dig and they hardly interact with anyone else.
(b) Windsor Davies and Jack Douglas are here to cheat on their wives. They meet two pretty but unlikeable girls (Sherrie Hewson and Carol Hawkins) and get nowhere with them.
(c) Bernard Bresslaw is on holiday with his wife (Patsy Rowlands) and mother-in-law (Joan Sims).
(d) A random couple who could have been anyone have brought a big dog.
(e) Kenneth Connor owns the caravan site and Peter Butterworth is his untrustworthy odd job man.
...and that's pretty much the plot. Silly incidents take place. The film begins and ends with a stripper and... you know, I'm already scratching around for things to mention. Assuming that Davies and Douglas's love lives are of no interest whatsoever (which they're not), then I've nearly summed up the story developments of this movie.
However I haven't, quite. There's one surprising scene, which I won't spoil but is unprecedented in Carry On in its emotional depth. There's also an odd schizophrenic attitude to marriage, in that the Windsor Davies plotline is dutifully doing all that skin-crawling Sid James stuff... but at the same time, the movie appears quite fond of wedlock. Bresslaw and Rowlands are kind of sweet, for instance. They're a couple of ugly lumps and you could hardly say that Bresslaw's picked the belle of the ball, yet he's an unswerving husband and entirely uninterested in other women. Douglas I'm liking more and more every film, since here he's ditched that faintly annoying twitching and is instead an innocent who only wanted to go fishing and finds delightfully simple line readings that ignore potential innuendo. In a Carry On film, that's quite a surprise.
Then at the end of the film, Davies and Douglas are back together with their wives again as if nothing ever happened. They're happy. Their wives are happy. I'm puzzled, but I'll go along with it.
The stars are of course Williams and Sommer, in the latter case to the tune of a 30,000-pound fee that's six times more than Kenneth Williams or Sid James ever got. Only Phil Silvers had ever earned that much doing a Carry On. However they got their money's worth, because she fits into the Carry On team as if she was born to it and of course is also stunningly beautiful. She's playing a Russian who speaks in broken English, which is a joke so old it's got whiskers on it... but Sommer makes it work.
Mind you, Russians wouldn't say "Wenus" instead of "Venus". It's "W" that isn't in the Cyrrilic alphabet, not "V".
So we have a film that's capable of being mildly distasteful during the Windsor Davies subplot, but also sometimes has a modest charm. It's also worth pointing out that Davies is no Sid James. He lacks that ground-in filth. This is a good thing. He's having a game swing at the material, but despite his best efforts I find his take on it slightly unconvincing and I couldn't help liking him. There's something paradoxically cuddly about Windsor Davies. There's a surprise cameo from Liz Fraser of all people, as his wife. She deserved a bigger role, obviously, but I was still happy to see her. Of the other characters, Kenneth Connor is lecherous, but in a pompously harmless way. Butterworth is his usual self (which is always good) and gets some of his best material.
By normal movie standards, it's sort of passable if you're feeling generous. It bumbles along like an insect that's hit too many windows. It keeps its characters quarantined and it hasn't got much of a storyline. I'd need to think hard about the Windsor Davies subplot to decide whether or not its resolution is bollocks. However what it did do, surprisingly often, was make me laugh. Kenneth Williams is oddly off-colour in his first couple of scenes, but he makes a wonderful double-act with Elke Sommer and his ketchup accident is one of the funniest things in a Carry On. The showers also provide more laughs than they deserve, thanks to Sommer, while there are good one-liners. "My ball's burning!" "Don't stand so close to the fire."
Overall, I sort of liked it. It's amusing. I can't imagine anyone passionately adoring this film, but it's all right. It's faintly uncomfortable here and there, e.g. Windsor Davies, the stripper at the end and the way that people get laughed at when they've fallen over. However it's also warmer and more human than we're used to in a Carry On, while it would be wrong not to praise a comedy that made me laugh. Come to think of it, I seem to remember also enjoying Carry On England
"Man is injured."
"Where? What man?"
"Is professor archaeology... is bleeding terrible."
"Never mind his qualifications! Is he hurt?"