With Carry On Jack, the series seems to take a cautious step back on track. We are back in color (thankfully), dialed-down considerably on politics, and for the first time in period costume. Of the regulars we have only Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, and and Jim Dale — and Dale only for a scene or two. Fortunately, the starring cast is rounded out capably by Bernard Cribbins (who will be very familiar to 21st Century Doctor Who fans and 20th Century Doctor Who completists) and Juliet Mills, older sister of Disney star Hayley Mills.
As threatened, I have taken a short break from Carry On movies. Even watching them at a rate of one or two a week is a fair clip. Not that they aren’t fun. But a little goes a long way.
In the interim here’s the kind of stuff I’ve been watching.
An occupational hazard with watching these old movies is that sometimes the world has moved on so far that the very premise seems wrong. Of course, it was a very different world in 1963, what with the George Wallacing, the whites-only hotels, iconic MLK speeches, and a Presidential assassination. The Beatles released their first album and Sylvia Plath committed suicide. (The two events are presumably unrelated.)
With Carry On Cruising, we are six-deep in the Carry On series. That’s roughly 20% of the way through. Nevertheless, we’re recycling the “band of misfits” plot for the fourth time.
Captain Crowther (Sid James) has been captain of the Happy Wanderer cruise ship for ten years. He’s hoping to move on to a large transatlantic ship, but this voyage he discovers several of his key crew members have been replaced with five newcomers. He’s worried they will botch things up, thus preventing him from getting the appointment to the new cruise ship. They do bungle things, but by the end of the movie they’ve learned how to work together. That’s pretty much the same setup as Sergeant, Teacher, and Constable.
A lot of folks are out of work. Bert Handy (
Sam Vimes Sid James) starts up an odd-job agency called “Helping Hands.” The premise provides quite a bit of variety in setting at the expense of narrative structure — the cast circulate through a series of odd jobs, culminating at the end with an all-cast home-repair-themed extravaganza.
I said last time that I was looking forward to Sid James but I want to open by talking about the other Kenneth. Prior to Carry On, Kenneth Connor replaced Peter Sellers on the radio show Ray’s a Laugh and understudied him on The Goon Show, so he had an excellent comedic heritage coming into the Carry On. Connor’s appearances bookend the series, showing up in the first seven films, then seven of the last eight. (Since Carry On Columbus was shot fourteen years after the penultimate film, Carry On Emmannuelle, it seems unfair to hold that against him.)
The next review is for Carry On Constable, the fourth in the series and the first of the 60s. But I need more coffee.