Login

Carry On Don’t Lose Your Head Review

Image for Carry On Don’t Lose Your Head

Fiddlesome fop Sir Rodney Ffing assumes the guise of the Black Fingernail to rescue French aristocrat the Duc de Pommfrit from the big cheese of the Revolutionary police, Citizen Camembert.

★★★★★

In 1967, Peter Rogers severed his links with Anglo Amalgamated and signed a lucrative new deal with the Rank Organisation. However, furious at losing its sole source of guaranteed income, Anglo refused him to permission to continue using the `Carry On' prefix and this spoof of The Scarlet Pimpernel was initially released simply as Don't Lose Your Head. Eventually, however, it came to be accepted as the 13th entry in the long-running series and remains one of its best.

Keen to return to the historical antics of Carry On Cleo, screenwriter Talbot Rothwell sold the project as an opportunity for Sid James and Kenneth Williams to recreate the swashbuckling rivalry that had existed between Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone in the 1930s. Williams acquiesced with his usual indifferences, but James was particularly enthused by the prospect of some derring-do and proved himself to be an accomplished swordsman, alongside Jim Dale as his sidekick, Lord Darcy.

He was less enamoured, however, at having to don drag for one of his escapades and he endured Willliams and the crew taunting him about his complexion and curvaceous figure with seething ill grace. Yet Sid got his own back on Rothwell, who usually allowed no ad-libbed additions to his screenplays, by devising Charles Hawtrey's business with the letter on the guillotine.

Flushed with a budget of £200,000, Rogers spent lavishly on costumes and

rented Waddesdon Manor, Clandon Park and Cliveden for his 18th-century backdrops. But, for all its fey opulence, this is still a gloriously vulgar romp, which boasts such memorable characters as Citizen Bidet (the ever-reliable Peter Butterworth) and the Duke and Duchess de la Plume de ma Tante, with the latter enabling Joan Sims to turn in another of her peerless displays of coarse refinment, as Camembert's social-climbing sister, Desirée DuBarry.

This bigger budget 13th entry in the franchise is one of its best with some decent sword fights in amongst the general saucy mayhem.

More from Empire