Kenneth ConnorPeter ButterworthNorman ChappellMichael Nightingale
Carry On Laughing! The Case of the Screaming Winkles
Medium: TV
Year: 1975
Director: Alan Tarrant
Writer: Dave Freeman
Series: << Carry On >>, << Carry On Laughing >>
Keywords: Lord Peter Flimsy, comedy, detective
Country: UK
Actor: Jack Douglas, Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims, Peter Butterworth, David Lodge, Sherrie Hewson, Norman Chappell, Marianne Stone, Melvyn Hayes, John Carlin, Michael Nightingale
Format: 24 minutes
Website category: Carry On
Review date: 5 March 2012
It's the second of the Carry On team's Lord Peter Flimsy episodes. I find these among the more likeable of the series, but unfortunately this one also isn't funny.
The good news is that they're sticking to the formula and still playing it fairly straight. Jack Douglas is doing very little in the lead role and he's capable of that, so it works okay. Kenneth Connor is once again his manservant Punter, David Lodge is still Inspector Bungler, who dislikes Douglas. Joan Sims is still a batty village lady without a clue, someone still gets murdered at the beginning, there's still Peter Butterworth and so on.
Playing it straight is good because this is Carry On Laughing!, a series that's far below the quality threshold even of its parent movie series. Today's episode didn't make me laugh, but at least it's not stupid and annoying and so I can take modest pleasure in watching actors I like. (That's mostly Butterworth, although Connor's not bad either.)
The attempts at humour feel like The Two Ronnies, a series of which I'm immensely fond even though that also often wasn't funny. I just love Barker and Corbett. What this episode is doing here that's similar is to rely on wordplay. There's lots of elaborate innuendo that just sits there and defies you to see any humour value in it, while there are two scenes between Lodge and Joan Sims that depend on the latter saying weak tongue-twisters. Her dialogue will contain lots of words beginning with 'S', for instance. This isn't even recognisable as something that was intended to be funny. It's Martian humour or something. Admittedly this kind of surrealism has a certain amount of entertainment value when Ronnie Barker says it, but unfortunately Joan Sims (despite being a similar shape) is no Barker. She almost seems to have stopped trying, to be honest. Look out for her occasional Scottish accent, to give another example.
The detective story is gibberish. It's superficially similar to what we had before, which I think was merely overcomplicated, but this time they've lost internal coherence. How did the arsenic get into those winkles, then? By syringe, or merely by pouring it over them? I don't know or care. The important thing is that there's too much backstory and too many meaningless names being bandied around. Not caring about plot is what I expect from Dave Freeman, though, to be honest.
Nevertheless I still sort of enjoyed the episode. Is that overstating the case? Hmmm. Well, I endured it without pain and thought it managed to scrape an above-average mark for the series in general watchability, if not in laughs. Butterworth's always good value and here he's playing another retired navy officer, except this time (unlike Carry On Girls) not a lecher. He's a bit more prominent than usual this week, which is nice. He's easily the best thing about the series, if you ask me, invariably entertaining me even in episodes that are bloody awful. He's not Sid James, obviously, but by this point James was long gone. Meanwhile Connor is good as Punter. It's a shame that Douglas's character doesn't say or do anything intelligent, despite being the detective, but then again he is being played by Jack Douglas. Marianne Stone also appears as a fortune teller, which is nice.
In summary, lame but inoffensive. Never take the latter for granted. The clues are stupid, but there's some attempt at maintaining the whodunnit formula and keeping the audience looking out for the killer. That I approve of. The most stupid bit is Joan Sims's scenes and even they're not episode-breaking. (One day she'll be given good material. I live in hope.) I wouldn't suggest watching it, obviously, but if you do you'll probably think it's mediocre but tolerable. Still not funny, though.