Sid JamesPeter ButterworthBarbara WindsorJohn Levene
Carry On Laughing! The Baron Outlook
Medium: TV
Year: 1975
Director: Alan Tarrant
Writer: Dave Freeman
Series: << Carry On >>, << Carry On Laughing >>
Keywords: comedy, historical, rubbish
Country: UK
Actor: Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor, Peter Butterworth, David Lodge, Brian Osborne, Diane Langton, John Carlin, Linda Hooks, Anthony Trent, John Levene
Format: 24 minutes
Website category: Carry On
Review date: 4 January 2012
Better than having your face smashed in with a brick, but not quite as good as staring at a blank screen for 25 minutes. I've seen worse, but that's no excuse.
I'm getting a bad feeling about Dave Freeman. Let me look him up. Apparently he's quite a well-regarded sketch writer, having worked in this capacity for Tony Hancock, Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd, Roy Hudd, Arthur Askey and especially Benny Hill. That fits. Sketch shows don't call for plotting. He was apparently also a successful playwright and proudest of his stage plays, while strangely his last decade's worth of screen credits is almost all in Dutch. However the thing you should know is that in 1992, he perpetrated Carry On Columbus. I don't need to say any more, do I?
The good things about this episode would be Sid James, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor and Peter Butterworth. They don't get much to work with, but they're a selling point. Butterworth does the best out of them, for what it's worth. He's playing another sleazy lowlife with pretensions of respectability, at which as usual he's perfect and gets the episode's best jokes. (This isn't saying much.) Sims is wasted. James is lugubrious and manages to squeeze a couple of halfway decent moments out of his thin material. Connor is being Connorish, which is to say that he's likeable and clearly trying, but not particularly funny. Barbara Windsor briefly jumps around in a nightdress and no bra, not to mention going around in drag with a French accent, but I'm not going to put that as a plus point. Surreally John Levene also gets an uncredited role as a soldier, for all you Sergeant Benton fans out there.
The bad things would be... no, not "everything else", actually. I nearly wrote that, but it wouldn't be true. The episode's merely weak and not pulling its weight.
In fairness I can't pretend that I hated the thing, but there's still no reason for even Carry On fans to be watching something this poor. Dave Freeman doesn't seem to think Carry On Laughing episodes need a storyline. It's not without something storyline-like, but this is largely absent from the first half, ends feebly and overall doesn't really add up to much. Sid James is a knight in the Middle Ages with a castle in poor repair. (If you're looking for a more precise date, James and Sims both remember the Black Death in 1380, but they also approximately sing the approximately Elizabethan song Greensleeves. That would make it at least either the early or late 16th century, depending on whether you believe the story that Henry VIII wrote it for Anne Boleyn.) Anyway, Sid James's castle comprises the following:
(a) Sims as his wife
(b) Butterworth as a highly dubious man of the cloth
(c) Connor as their knight, which is apparently the best that could be got for the available money
(d) serving maids who might be sexually available, which Freeman appears to regard as humorous
(e) so few bedrooms that putting up even one overnight visitor means sharing beds, which is surprising in a castle
Meanwhile the story involves Barbara Windsor being captured by the English and pretending to be a knight so that her man can get away. She's French. There will be jokes about a wasp flying inside her armour and David Lodge volunteering to put his hand inside to squash it. This is less funny than it sounds. We then get a long scene in which Sid James and everyone in his castle gets nothing to do, after which Lodge and Windsor arrive and... hang on, it's time for the advertising break.
Okay, we're back again. It turns out that Lodge is both the King's Inspector General of Royal Castles and in charge of escorting captured French knights back to England, but in the context of the episode this doesn't seem as ridiculous as it should. There's some material about Sid James trying to get a good report sent back to the king, Butterworth is sleazy and there's a half-hearted finale involving Barbara Windsor. The end. Watching this will cost you 25 minutes of your life.
Is there anything to enjoy here? Well, I liked Butterworth's character. He's doing the same thing he does in all his Carry On films, but that's okay because he's well suited to it. His technique for turning lead into gold is amusing, at least. I liked the sub-Blackadder feel, although obviously this is less good and also less evil. (I'll leave you to parse that sentence.) Sid James feels almost stranded and I'm pretty sure he thinks the episode's as weak as I do, but he manages to be watchable. There's a bit of location filming. That knight running away from sailors near the beginning is funny. Um... okay, now I'm struggling. Linda Hooks is extremely pretty, although on the downside Diane Langton isn't. (The Carry On franchise's taste in women could be oddly variable.)
That's it. I've now run out of good things to say about this episode. It's not even as good as Freeman's previous episode, The Prisoner of Spenda, and that was a waste of time too. It's watchable, in its way, but I really, really wouldn't bother.