Carry On Cleo Review

Carry On Cleo
A strange and not entirely accurate retelling of the fabled story of Antony and Cleopatra, as seen through the eyes of two British slaves, Hegist and Horsa.

by Ian Nathan |
Published on
Release Date:

29 Nov 1964

Running Time:

92 minutes



Original Title:

Carry On Cleo

Unique in the pantheon of Carry On movies, this is the only one of those chirpy, uneven comedies to be based on a Shakespearean play. Perhaps, that is why it is considered one of, if not the, finest of the bunch. However, both these statements should be qualified. Being the best Carry On movie does not test the likes of Some Like It Hot or Annie Hall in the ranks of classic comedy, nor is it necessarily the best Carry On, you could just as easily argue Khyber, Spying or Screaming. And as far as Will the Bard is concerned, no matter how hard you search the original text, you will find no trace of Senna Pod or, indeed, Sosages.

Yet, there is a rare genius in screenwriter Talbot Rothwell’s rewiring of one kind of British wordplay into an entirely different one, although scholars could tell you Shakespeare was equally adept at bawdy farce if not quite up to the inspired gasp of Kenneth William’s Caesar: Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!” This is Carry On working in top gear. The team, including the trio behind the camera of director Gerald Thomas, writer Rothwell and producer Peter Rogers, found greater purchase for their muse when pushing against some historical or generic baseline. Here, splurging both the bard and the swords’n’sandals bluster of Roman epics.

It looks splendid, dressed in the gaudy colours of countless costume houses; the likes of Williams, Sid James and the rest obviously thrilled to dressing-up, as if it added an air of dignity to their formula sacking of political correctness. Hence the performances bubble and thrum with more than just winking efficiency, Williams especially gives a shrill, put-upon frustration to the campest Caesar in all history. Amanda Barrie, lately of Coronation Street fame, adds fluttery sexy glitter to Cleo, giving it just a bit more dimension and life than the series’ regular giggly sex-bomb Barbara Windsor might have. It’s still evidently a Carry On movie, but one that reminds you there was certainly talent at work.

Definitely one of the best Carry Ons...this has a consistency of plot and coherence that many of the others doesn't. The sets and costumes are fun too...
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