Thursday, 26 February 2015

Carry On Girls (1973)

Carry On films often have a saucy seaside postcard sense of humour, so it is entirely appropriate to set one entirely at the seaside. Carry On Girls may lack the freshness (and several key cast members) of some of the earlier films, but it is still silly and enjoyable, albeit dated, fun.

Set in the fictional English seaside resort of Fircombe, the story sees local councillor and entrepreneur Sid Fiddler (played, naturally, by Sid James) plotting to use a beauty contest to boost business in the local area, a scheme that also involves his PR guru friend Peter Potter (Bernard Bresslaw), the dignity (and trousers) of the town mayor, Frederick Bumble (Kenneth Connor) and the seafront hotel run by his long suffering girlfriend Connie (Joan Sims). However, he has not counted on his arch rival, fellow councillor and head of the local Women's Lib, Augusta Prodworthy (June Whitfield) and her band of gender crusaders, who are prepared to use any means necessary to stop it.

Carry On Girls is the 25th film in the series, and some of the cast are showing their age a bit, in particular, Sid James, and the sight of him leching and chasing after young ladies gives some of the scenes a rather unsavoury atmosphere, albeit one entirely in keeping with the character of Fiddler.

Less enjoyable is the character of the Admiral played by Peter Butterworth, whose sole raison d'etre is to grope women and then look innocent when they complain, and playing sexual harassment for laughs, leaves a bit of a nasty taste in the mouth nowadays. Another cringeworthy aspect is Jimmy Logan playing the camp, lisping TV producer Cecil Gaybody (or, as Sid keeps calling him, “Mr Gayboy”), something which only goes to highlight how integral actors like Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey were to the success of the series

However, before I start to sound too much like Mrs Prodworthy herself, there is still plenty to enjoy in the film. Firstly is the story, which, with the clearly defined opposing sides and the big climactic event, is pretty tightly structured, with little padding. Meanwhile, the cast, despite a few more wrinkles and grey hairs, carry of the most tired and lame puns and innuendoes with a great sense of energy and fun, especially the other series regulars such as Barbara Windsor, Patsy Rowlands and Jack Douglas.

What remains fascinating about Carry On films of the 1970s is the dark undertones, and unflattering picture they sometimes paint of England and its inhabitants. The opening shot of Carry On Girls is of a miserable looking family, sitting in the rain on the seafront pier, simmering with resentment and bitterness. The film ends with that classic horror movie trope, the angry mob, and one that is happy to revel in the misfortunes of others, but turn nasty in a second when similar things happen to them.

Carry On films often finish on a rather traditional happy ending, with the young hero marrying his sweetheart, but this is not the case here. Hounded by the baying mob, with his money stolen by his girlfriend (to offset the damage he has done to her business), Sid has no choice but to leap on a motorcycle and ride off into the sunset to an uncertain future with a buxom blonde.