Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Carry On Screaming (1966)

A raucous but affectionate spoof of Hammer and Universal horror films, Carry On Screaming is one of the funniest and best crafted of the long running British comedy series. Despite lacking some of the regular faces commonly associated with Carry On Films, their replacements more than rise to the occasion, and are joined by a few regulars, a script that doesn't abandon story for corny gags and an eye for detail in the production design.

The plot sees two Edwardian London policemen, Sergeant Sidney Bung (Harry H. Corbett of Steptoe and Son fame) and Constable Slobotham (Peter Butterworth) investigating the disappearance of several young women in a local wood. Could the disappearances have anything to with sinister scientist Dr Watt (Kenneth Williams), who has a lab full of mysterious equipment – and a lucrative sideline selling female mannequins to local department stores?

This is the twelfth entry in the series, so by now many of the tropes had been established, both the with characters (the henpecked lech Sid James, his harridan wife, his dopey sidekick, and an object of his lust and the script (innuendos, puns, and broad slapstick). There is no actual Sid James the actor, so the Sid James character is represented by Corbett, and he gives Bung a stoutness and sympathy that you might not have got from James the actor. Most of the back and forth banter between him and Butterworth feels like two men doing a music hall routine, but they know to milk the lines for laughs.

In the world of Carry On the usual object of the lust of Sid James is Barbara Windsor, but here it is the stunning Fenella Fielding, in a low cut red dress, the epitome of saucy goth beauty, her subtly naughty style making a good contrast to the histrionics of Kenneth Williams. Sadly Joan Sims, is rather wasted in the role of nagging wife Emily Bung, given little to do other than verbally and physically attack Sidney.

Aside from the people, Carry on Screaming, often looks and sounds as good as the films it is spoofing. It has the lush eerie score, cob web strewn haunted houses, and portentous dialogue. What is also noticeable and unexpected, at least for a Carry On film, is that it is often, if not scary, then at least creepy, with weird and almost unpleasant undertones that crop up from time to time. Williams actually makes Watt feel, at times, genuinely salacious and  unsavoury, with a hint of incestous flirting in the banter between him and Valeria.