With his reputation unjustly in tatters after a cricketing mishap, Betram Oliphant West, along with his stalwart manservant Simpson, joins the French Foreign Legion. Here, amongst a ragtag and lackadaisical bunch, trouble looms with the Arab locals and th
With the series lagging and losing fans, and inspiration in short supply, the Carry On franchise looked to revamp its ailing formula. They did this first by foolishly ditching the ‘Carry On’ prefix and, to no great gain or loss, adding a famous American, also on his uppers, to its troupe of ageing eccentrics.
Phil Silvers, from TV’s Bilko, made a effervescent addition to this thin tale of dappy legionnaires made on the well-disguised Camber Sands, but still seems to inhabit an entirely different brand of sassier humour that sits awkwardly with the pun-rich antics of this mob. Still, Gerald Thomas was in experimental mode all round adding montages, stabs of physical comedy and strands of remarkably dark humour. Monty Python was making waves and Thomas wasn’t eager to be seen as old-fashioned.
The result must be the oddest Carry On of them all, and a big failure at the box office. Not that it is entirely a creative failure, far more effort has been put into the visual look of the film (on this level it is the best directed), with seasoned regulars like Kenneth Williams (possibly the most reliable of them all) and Charles Hawtry relishing the chance to both break free of the prattling closet dwellers they usually play (Williams is transformed into a sadistic brute). Jim Dale and the hard-working Peter Butterworth also make for an appealing pair in the lead, giving the film a sense of greater purpose than the next gag.
Silvers, his bald pate gleaming like a bowling ball, has such an easy manner, the slippery, jovial conman he made a career out of, but he just slips on the Bilko mantle and trudges to the finish line to claim his cheque. Little surprise, then, that the film feels so burdened with confusion, and no amount of heaving bosoms and revealed rumps can return it to former glories. Still, the respite in experimentation was soon to be abandoned, Up The Khyber, the series last great hurrah, was next on the list.
A Carry On without the 'Carry On', starring Phil Silvers...