When his girlfriend is kidnapped, Albert Potter goes to the police – and their investigation leads to a spooky house, where a brother and sister are conducting strange experiments…
What’s it spoofing? The horror genre, specifically the successful movies then being made by Hammer Films. Also in the pastiche mix are 19th-century literary classics such as Frankenstein (1818), Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), the Sherlock Holmes stories (1887-1927) and Dracula (1897), as well as US TV shows The Munsters and The Addams Family (both 1964-1966). The plot owes something to House of Wax, a 1953 American horror film starring Vincent Price.
Funniest moment: Sergeant Bung’s investigation has brought him and Constable Slobotham to a road with a large, mysterious house on it. Bung: “We can’t afford to leave any stone unturned. What’s the name of this road, Slobotham?” Slobotham: “Avery Avenue.” Bung: “Then we must explore Avery Avenue.”
The Big 10:
* Jim Dale (6) plays Albert Potter, the man whose girlfriend goes missing in the opening scene.
* Peter Butterworth (2) has a dimwit sidekick role for the second film running – Constable Slobotham.
* Joan Sims (7), meanwhile, gets another harridan. She plays Emily, Sgt Bung’s largely bedridden wife who shouts and moans a lot. She also fails to notice when her husband has turned into a monster because she’s too busy having a go at him.
* Bernard Bresslaw (2) plays the large, laconic butler, Sockett. He’s basically a rip-off of Lurch from The Addams Family.
* Kenneth Williams (11) is one of the stars of the show as Dr Orlando Watt, the scientist who’s been experimenting on local women. The character’s been dead for 15 years, but had perfected a regenerative process to resurrect himself. In a throwaway gag about his name, he claims to be Dr Who’s nephew.
* Charles Hawtrey (11) has a small role as Dan Dann, a public-convenience attendant who has vital information for the investigation. It’s more of an acting performance than Hawtrey usually gives us. Originally, another actor (Carry On Cowboy’s Sydney Bromley) was cast in the part, but a press report suggested that the film would suffer financially without Hawtrey, so the producer had a rethink.
* Angela Douglas is back from Carry On Cowboy, though is only in the film briefly at both ends. She plays Doris Mann, the girl who goes missing, so is again teamed up with Jim Dale.
* Harry H Corbett is the film’s lead, in a part written for Sid James: Sergeant Sidney Bung. Conflicting reports have James either busy doing panto or being punished for asking for more money, so Corbett – fresh from four series of Stepton & Son – was drafted in. He’s incredibly funny, and plays the role in a much more earnestly naïve way than surely James would have done. Bung has a Sherlock Holmes pipe and cape, but none of the observational skills.
* Fenella Fielding is sultry, slinky and sexy as Dr Watt’s sister, the vampire-pale Valeria. The part was originally Watt’s daughter, but Kenneth Williams balked at another old-man part after Carry On Cowboy so the concept was changed to siblings.
* Jon Pertwee gets a third hilariously eccentric cameo in the series, playing a Scottish scientist who Bung goes to see for information.
* Frank Thornton, later of Are You Being Served? and Last of the Summer Wine, appears as a millinery shop manager.
Top totty: Fenella Fielding.
Kenneth Williams says: “Pinewood about 9.45. Clothes are vaguely Victoria, frock coat, cravat, etc. and make-up dead pale to look ‘from the dead’, as it were. Everyone on the set was nice to me. Alan Hume, lighting, took me aside and said ‘No joking, Kenny, it really is good to have you back on the set’ – I could hardly reply, I was so touched and pleased. Technicians & stage hands – loads of people came up to me and said lovely things. It was the most beautiful day of the year. It’s a wonderful thing to be liked.” – Friday 14 January 1966 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p271)
Review: Another good one, and another inch-perfect spoof of a movie genre. As an exercise in pastiche it excels – the colour cinematography, for example, is so Hammer – while there’s a good amount of gags and a strong cast of both Carry On regulars and guests. There’s also a fun sing-along title song (‘Sung by Anon,’ read the credits: it was actually a session musician called Ray Pilgrim).
Nine mannequins out of 10