Midshipman Albert Poop-Decker, RN, gets a shock when he’s press-ganged onto his own ship during the Napoleonic Wars – a girl called Sally has taken his place…
What’s it spoofing? The film is full of nineteenth-century naval and nautical clichés, and also satirises a pair of high-seas movies from the previous year: Mutiny on the Bounty and HMS Defiant. The opening shot is a deliberate recreation of Arthur William Devis’s famous painting ‘The Death of Nelson, 21 October 1805’, which now hangs in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. I went to see it the other day and had fun spotting the attention to detail shown by the Carry On team when restaging it. The movie was originally going to be a self-contained project called Up the Armada, but when the BBFC objected to the innuendo title the producers brought it under the Carry On banner.
Funniest moment: Arriving in Plymouth, Poop-Decker hires a sedan chair to take him to his ship. However, when the two guys lift it up, it has no bottom – so Poop-Decker has to run along, Flintstones-style.
The Big 10: For the first time, Kenneth Connor is missing from a Carry On movie. He was busy in the West End, so the final 100-per-cent appearance record has now gone.
* Jim Dale (2) cameos as one of the sedan carriers.
* Charles Hawtrey (7) plays Walter Sweetly, a drunken cesspit cleaner who gets press-ganged into the crew.
* Kenneth Williams (7) is scaredy-cat Captain Fearless, who we first see vomiting over the side.
* Anton Rodgers is in the opening scene as HMS Victory’s captain, Thomas Hardy. When Horatio asks for his kiss, Hardy says, “Are you mad? What will they say at the Admiralty?!”
* Bernard Cribbins is excellent value as the movie’s lead, Albert Poop-Decker. He’s promoted at the start of the story, to midshipman, and gets a romantic subplot.
* Juliet Mills plays Sally, a prostitute from the Dirty Dicks brothel in Plymouth. She seduces Albert, then knocks him out, steals his uniform, and poses as him on board HMS Venus because she wants to get to Spain to find her sweetheart. Mills got the role after Liz Fraser – who’d been in the previous three movies – turned it down.
* Peter Gilmore plays a pirate captain, who turns out to be Sally’s old flame Roger the lodger.
Top totty: Juliet Mills has the only female role of any note.
Kenneth Williams says: “Went to see Carry On Jack. It was a lousy, badly made film. I was astonished at the excellence of Charlie Hawtrey. He was superb. So was Cribbins – the best droll I’ve seen in years. But really good. The rest awful. Including me.” – Friday 28 February 1964 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p230)
“Went in to see Louie [his mother] and we watched Carry On Jack. It is amazing how well these early Carry Ons stand up! At one or two moments I was v. good indeed & talk about economy! I get words out quicker than anyone else on the screen! Self-indulgence in acting is totally alien to me.” – Wednesday 23 October 1974 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p482)
“We saw Carry On Jack and my incisive performance was hardly in accord with the dithering idiot I was supposed to portray.” – Saturday 26 March 1983 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p673)
Review: This is the second Carry On in colour – coincidentally like the first it’s set at sea. More significantly, it’s the first period movie in the series (we’ll get 11 more historical Carry Ons). It’s often quite silly, and feels like a panto at times with a woman masquerading as a man being the central thrust of the story. Charles Hawtrey even delivers a gag direct to camera at one point. But it looks fantastic, with some excellent and elaborate sets of both Plymouth and various sailing ships.
Seven planks out of 10