Film review by Jason Day of Carry on…Don’t Lose Your Head (1967), the slapstick, double entendre riddled comedy set during the French Revolution, starring Sid James, Kenneth Williams and directed by Gerald Thomas.
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Synopsis (from the film’s narration)
Paris, 1789. The Great Revolution has begun. The hands of the masses are smeared with the blood of the poor bleeding aristocracy. Every day the tumbrels run a regular half-hour service between the Bastille and the many guillotines around the city.
The growing mounds of noble heads are only matched by the growing mounds of unused return tickets. No-one is spared. Madame La Guillotine claims them all. Dukes and Duchesses, Lords and Ladies, men and women of both sexes.
A dozen times an hour the drums roll, the blade falls, and the heads roll. Yes, every five minutes, a freshly sliced loaf.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
Allez to Calais!Citizen Camembert (Kenneth Williams) is “the big cheese”.
I do love a good Carry on.
I probably shouldn’t admit such a thing, be a bit more highbrow, be more of a BFI-visiting, middle-class, cinema tw*t and say I beg for Bergman, kill for Kieslowski and go bonkers over Buñuel.
Now there’s nothing wrong with those artists, but when Sid James says things like “You’ve got a kinky runner” and cackles his inimitable “yug, yug, yug” laugh, I’m in fits and thoughts of serious cinema temporarily flee my mind.
In this gloriously blatant Scarlet Pimpernel rip-off, James has one of his finest Carry on characters. He plays a louche upper-class wastrel who bums about ye olde England trying on new pantaloons days after becoming bored with his last pair, but who has a secret, double-life rescuing French aristocrats seriously at risk of never needing a haircut again.
James preferred playing a cowboy in the series entry that was – funnily enough – called Carry on Cowboy (1965) and he excelled there but, for me, he is awesome in this film, neatly playing the dual roles of Sir Rodney Effing (“With two f’s!”) and his heroic alter ego, the brilliant ‘Black Fingernail’.
He’s helped by having the most puntastic, p*ss-taking script from master of the double (and single) entendre Talbot Rothwell, who really lets rips with satirical swipes at France’s language and its infamous revolution.
Here are just a few of the juicier offerings:
- Carry on choppin’!
- If there’s any screwing to be done, he’ll do it. He’s screwed up the revolution already
- Stop messin’ about!
- Shut ya trap! (Joan Sims responds: I only asked!)
- Join me in the arbour. (Sims responds: Blimey! I didn’t realise we were so near to the sea!)
- Talk about wandrin’ ‘ands. He could’ve written a couple of travel books
- Chateux neuf…or, as you’d call it, Number Nine.
The whole cast are up for ‘a bit’ (of fun), with Kenneth Williams’ sneering beaurocrat, Charles Hawtrey’s horny old roué, Peter Butterworth’s useless administrator and Jim Dale is a practically perfect, perfumed ponce, James’ sidekick – all scoring highly.
But all perfumed wigs off to Joan Sims, who leads the support stars as Williams’ dubiously familial sister Desiree Dubarry. With a heaving cleavage (“…a trifle over exposed, my dear”) she uses as a conveniently located dustbin, a ripe cockney accent and impeccable timing, she practically steals the show from under James’ feet.
I say the film should be renamed Carry on, Joanie!
Cast & credits
Director: Gerald Thomas. 1 hr 30 mins/90 mins. Peter Rogers Productions. (PG).
Producer: Gerald Thomas.
Writer: Talbot Rothwell.
Camera: Alan Hume.
Music: Eric Rogers.
Sets: Lionel Couch.
Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Jim Dale, Charles Hawtrey, Peter Butterworth, Joan Sims, Dany Robin, Peter Gilmore, Marianne Stone, Michael Ward.