“I wouldn’t say that Miss…”
Arguably the most memorable and most quotable of the entire Carry on… series, the team take the conventions and trappings of the classic Hammer horror film, stir in a House of Wax plot, some Addams Family styling, and infuse it with their own unique chemistry of nudge-nudge wink-wink humour. The result is an infectious potion of clever word-play, not so subtle innuendo and affectionate pastiche.
Resplendent in his Sherlock Holmes costume, Harry H. Corbett (Detective Sergeant Sidney Bung) is pitch-perfect as the wide-eyed policeman desperately trying to solve the mystery of the missing ladies and the hairy severed six-toed foot. He is ably supported by Peter Butterworth as bumbling Detective Slobotham, and Jim Dale’s innocent Albert Potter who together contribute to the two best interplays of words in the film. Often wrongly dismissed for being little more than naughty sea-side postcard humour, the “Now then, you name please. Doctor Watt. Doctor who, sir…?” exchange is clearly a homage to the classic Abbott and Costello ‘Who’s on first” sketch. And then we have the beautifully timed: “Whereabouts? Hereabouts…” rapid fire questioning delivered with great aplomb by all and finished off with Jim Dales’ “Or layabouts!”
The baddies are also richly observed. We have the evil Doctor Watt played with nasally perfection by Kenneth Williams, and his gorgeously seductive sister Valeria, the sultry siren Fenella Fielding. Despite the countless come-ons and accidental disrobings throughout the Carry on series, there is no single scene more memorable or more erotically charged than the truly iconic “Do you mind if I smoke?” seduction of Sergeant Bung by Valeria. (For my money the scene works much better with Harry H. Corbett rather than the original choice of Sid James who I can’t help feeling would have brought a less subtle approach to the character and the scene itself).
And as well as the main leads we also have a rich treasure trove of support from the likes of Charles Hawtrey as Dan Dann the drowned lavatory attendant; Joan Sims as the ever nagging Mrs Bung (although she does make a lovely trouser press); gentle giant Bernard Bresslaw as the sinister butler Sockett) and even the great John Pertwee (pre-Doctor Who) as Doctor Fettle – strangled by Oddbod Junior!
Stir all these ingredients into the mix, garnish with the inimitable “Frying tonight!” and you have a truly heady comedy concoction guaranteed to cure all known ills.
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