Carry on again

As the Carry On series, er, carried on, standards, such as they were slipped. The humour became more lavatorial, production standards (and presumably budgets) decreased. The set for several films was just a muddy field.

Some of the later films are quite unwatchable. “Carry On England”, from 1976, is dreadful and reaches an all-time low. It stars Kenneth Connor, Peter Butterworth and even Judy Geeson and goes back to the army.

The very last, “Carry On Columbus” is rarely shown.

But many of the films have at least some great bits. “Carry On Regardless” concerns the employees of an agency called Helping Hands who set out to help people with their problems. It’s episodic, of course, but does have the great Stanley Unwin.

Some entries in the series are highly regarded, especially “Carry On Up The Khyber” and “Carry On Girls”, including the wonderful Margaret Nolan.

What a carry on…

It’s very hard, though not imposssible, to talk about films from a UK perspective and not mention the Carry On… series. Depending on how you count them, there are about thirty films, the first black and white then moving to colour, finishing in 1992.

The first was 1958, with “Carry On Sergeant”. This starred Kenneth Connor, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Charles Hawtrey and Bob Monkhouse, with William Hartnell playing the sergeant in question.

This film was barely thirteen years after the war, and National Service was still a thing. The plot concerns a group of new recruits who are incompetent and fail at everything, until they learn that their sergeant is retiring and so come together at the end, for their sarge, because they love him so much.

Next was “Carry On Nurse” (hospitals and doctors were always popular), then “Carry On Teacher” (1959).

This starred Kenneth Connor, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Charles Hawtrey and Joan Sims, and is about a school where the teachers struggle to control their naughty children. It turns out that the children know their headmaster (Ted Ray) is to leave so they behave badly so he cannot leave, because they love him so much.

By now, a core of Carry On actors was being established. Joining later would be Jim Dale, Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Bernard Bresslaw, Peter Butterworth and others. Stars came and went.

There was a big gap, fourteen years, between the penultimate “Carry On Emmannuelle” and “Carry On Columbus”. By this time, few of the big names were alive or willing to work any more for such low pay.

“South Pacific”

Our chosen classic musical is “South Pacific”, a very interesting film.

This is from 1958, directed by legend Joshua Logan and filmed in Todd-AO, though 70mm versions exist.

The plot: on a South Pacific island in World War II, Lieutenant Cable (John Kerr) arrives with instructions to contact Emile de Becque. The plan is to camp secretly on an island to spy on the Japanese and report back. Meanwhile, love blooms…

The stage version was one of the most successful ever produced. When it is revived even today it packs them in. It ran for nearly 2000 performances in New York alone.

The film stars Mitzi Gaynor as Nellie Forbush and Rozanno Brazzi as de Becque. Neither had appeared on the stage with this show. Mary Martin had made her name in one role and Giorgio Tozzi in the other. Both were passed over for the film. While Gaynor did her own singing, Brazzi did not. He was dubbed, not an uncommon thing, by Tozzi. Breathtaking cheek, though he does get a big credit.

The songs are well known, with additions and removals from the original version. The order of scenes was changed but the basic story not. The Bali Ha’i scenes are somewhat boring in our opinion.

What makes this film very interesting, and perhaps rather controversial, is the use of coloured filters to set a mood. It’s somewhat like what was done with silent films when they would be tinted to represent day, night or whatever. The whole film has a rather odd colour pallette anyway but the filters are very strange.

Logan says somewhere that the labs overdid it, this was not what was intended and it could not be altered. But it makes interesting viewing.

The film was a massive success. It ran in London for nearly four and a half years. Unheard of these days…