Carry On But Don’t Lose Your Head (1966 UK)

carry on but“Infamy, infamy – they’ve all got it in for me!” Screenwriter Talbot Rothwell was at his best when indulging his fondness for historical burlesque. Sumptuously mounted (ooh er) on various high-blown locations, including Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire – the former home of the Rothschilds, this is a beautifully produced and acted film. A ribald parody of the French Revolution encompassing everything from silly character names (Camembert is the local “big cheese,” aided and abetted by the gormless Citizen Bidet, while the Black Fingernail conceals his true identity under the foppish pseudonym of Sir Rodney Ffing – “with two small F’s!”). This reviewer also has two small f’s in his name but let’s move on…

I’m not even sure if I’ve got the title right because there was some legal fall out concerning the Carry On logo. This might just be Don’t Lose Your Head. Who cares? Its obvious who made it and what it aims to achieve: aching puns, sight gags and lowbrow slapstick. In other words, the formula as before. But like so many of the better Carry On’s, the comedy is rooted in a well-developed storyline, augmented by the usual array of flamboyant characters and eccentric supporting players. There is also a touch of elegance in the ballroom scene with quite stunning costumes and charming music framing the wonderfully silly story. The sword fight at ten minutes is a tad too long but this is a minor quibble. From one chop to the next, the French Revolution is re-enacted in a way that only the Carry On team could do.

don't lose your headWatch the regulars work their perfectly timed one-liners on us again and again, wearing some great costumes. It’s so very entertaining and funny from start to finish, I cannot think of a better Carry On film to compare it with. Out of all the historical ones, this one ranks as my favourite followed by Carry on Henry. Charles Hawtrey is full on in his camp, oh hello deary! butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth persona. Kenneth Williams takes out the acting honours as usual; wrinkling his nose while overplaying every gesture, emphasizing every double entendre, and milking every gag for all its considerable worth. Jim Dale and Sid James make an excellent swashbuckling duo, saving nobles from the French Revolution while Joan Sims is strangely sexy in that chubby-lady-next-door kind of way. It all adds up to comic poetry.

Let’s face it, you either love or hate Carry Ons (or it’s a generational thing) but there is a spectrum of quality that drops off (oo-er) after the late 60s. Thankfully, this spoof of the Scarlet Pimpernel pre-dates the jaded later ones and has all the usual innuendo and laughs galore. Such is its greatness…except for the final fisticuffs. I’ve seen better fight scenes in a convent. My favourite gag: Charles Hawtrey brags to a group of young women that he escaped the guillotine by slaying half a dozen of his captors, and one gushing admirer declares: “What a bloody sight it must have been.” Hawtrey, quick as a flash, retorts: “M’dear, if me sword hadn’t broken, it’d have been a bloody sight more!”

carry on

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Comments

  1. As somewhat of a young ‘un I can attest to the hilarity of the Carry On series, it’s campy retro comedy gold! I almost forgot about this title, will have to give it a rewatch sometime soon. Brilliant review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much! Many of them still hit the funny bone. 🙂

    Like

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