The story of the goings-on in a British hospital, following patients, doctors and visitors alike…
What’s it spoofing? Self-referentialism hits the Carry On series. In some ways, this is a pastiche of Carry On Nurse. There’s even an intertextual gag about it: “Oh, no, you don’t,” says Frankie Howerd as a nurse approaches with a daffodil, “I saw that film.” And there’s also another bit of postmodern tomfoolery: in the hospital’s lobby hangs a portrait of James Robertson Justice, star of the rival Doctor films (1954-1970).
Funniest moment: Charlie Roper (Sid James) is having his blood pressure measured when he meets Nurse Sandra (Barbara Windsor). “Hi,” she says to him, smiling. The blood-pressure machine explodes.
The Big 10:
* Joan Sims (10) again shows her versatility: she’s almost unrecognisable playing the meek, largely deaf Chloe Gibson. Sims was originally offered the role of the matron, but pointed out that Hattie Jacques should always play that part.
* Sid James (8) had recently had a heart attack, so was given a role that mostly consists of lying in bed. Charlie Roper, ironically, has nothing wrong with him – he’s faking illness so he can stay in hospital.
* Bernard Bresslaw (4) plays Ken Biddle, a patient with a foot injury who’s smitten on a woman in the female ward. (This film, it’s his turn to drag up.)
* Peter Butterworth (5) plays Mr Smith, a patient who’s had a lump removed from a delicate area.
* Charles Hawtrey (14) appears as Mr Barron, a patient who’s having sympathy pains for his wife’s labour.
* Hattie Jacques (7) returns after seven films away, and is essentially reprising her part from Carry On Nurse. It’s the second of five times she played a matron in the series – here, the character has an infatuation with Dr Tinkle.
* Jim Dale (9) is a young, dashing doctor called James Kilmore. Dale is given lots of pratfalls and physical comedy to deal with.
* Kenneth Williams (14) plays Dr Kenneth Tinkle, the hyper and arrogant registrar. It’s one of Williams’s more OTT turns, though he initially turned the part down.
* Barbara Windsor (2) plays nurse Sandra May. She first appears in her nightie then totters through the film on high heels, attracting phwoars and lustful looks wherever she goes.
* Frankie Howerd appears in a Carry On for the first time, playing faith healer Francis Bigger. When Howerd initially turned the part down, it was offered to Kenneth Williams, but he ended up playing Dr Tinkle.
* Peter Gilmore crops up again, playing a bored ambulance driver who – along with a colleague – appears at various points in the film like a Greek chorus.
* Anita Harris returns from Follow That Camel, now playing Nurse Clarke.
* Julian Holloway plays Simmons, an X-ray operator.
* Dandy Nichols (Till Death Us Do Part) has a cameo as Charlie’s wife.
* Brian Wilde (Porridge, Last of the Summer Wine) plays a salesman from a rubber-sheet company, who Bigger mistakes for an undertaker.
Top totty: Barbara Windsor. “What a lovely looking pear!” she says as she waddles up to a fruit-eating ambulance driver. “You took the words right out of my mouth!” he leers back.
Kenneth Williams says: “They delivered the script of Carry On Doctor today and I read it. It’s really a v. good vehicle for Frankie Howerd but all the other parts are lousy. I think that is it. This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I wrote a nice letter to Peter Rodgers [producer] saying I didn’t want to play the part.” – Thursday 10 August 1967 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p309)
“They are showing Carry On Doctor in the ship’s cinema today at 5 o’c [Williams was on a cruise holiday]. They had it coming out as well! I’m staying in the cabin. See enough of my face in the mirror every day.” – Thursday 13 February 1969 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p344)
Review: Of the 10 actors with the most Carry On appearances, only Kenneth Connor is missing from this cast, so the film has a certain definitive quality about it. We’re back to a contemporary setting for the first time since Carry On Spying (six films ago) and to ‘real people’ for the first time since Carry On Cabby (eight films ago). Also – to keep the statistical theme going – it’s the series’s second of four hospital-set films. Like Carry On Nurse, there’s no real overarching plot, except for a loose thread about Kilmore’s job that builds to a climax, but it’s good knockabout fun.
Eight specimen jars out of 10