Carry On Christmas (TV special, ITV, 24 December 1969)

Christmas1969

On Christmas Eve, skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts and shown the error of his ways…

What’s it spoofing? Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol (1843), though it’s a *very* loose adaptation and goes off on some distinctly non-Dickensian tangents (Frankenstein, Dracula, Cinderella…).

Funniest moment: Frankie Howerd, playing poet Robert Browning, arrives halfway through and takes over. The show basically becomes Up Pompeii! for 12 minutes and it’s great fun. (Talbot Rothwell wrote both this special and that sitcom, which had only had one episode at this point.)

The cast: There are eight actors in Carry On Christmas who play 27 roles between them, including…

* Sid James: Ebenezer Scrooge

* Peter Butterworth: a beggar, Dracula, a convent girl and an ugly sister

* Bernard Bresslaw: a town crier, Bob Cratchit, Frankenstein’s monster, the Spirit of Christmas Future, a convent girl, a hippy and a policeman

* Charles Hawtrey: the Spirit of Christmas Past, an angel, a convent girl and Buttons

* Hattie Jacques: a nun, Elizabeth Barrett and a passerby

* Terry Scott: Dr Frank N Stein, Elizabeth’s dad, a convent girl and an ugly sister

* Barbara Windsor: another monster, the Sprit of Christmas Present and Cinderella

* Frankie Howerd, as mentioned, plays Robert Browning. Well, actually he plays himself. He breaks the fourth wall, talks to camera, comments on the fiction, addresses the crew… He’s the best thing in the whole piece and returns at the end to play a terrifyingly dragged-up Fairy Godmother.

Top totty: An attractive but uncredited actress has a tiny appearance as a girl who Scrooge has hidden in a wardrobe.

Review: Shown on ITV on Christmas Eve 1969, this patchy special got 18 million viewers. There’s a general air of a shambolic, quickly rehearsed panto (some corpsing has been left in), which is a feeling that’s hammered home by a climactic Cinderella spoof with everyone talking in rhyming couplets. It’s not really like any Carry On film, especially given how many characters each actor plays, and it’s very bizarre to see the team shot on video and playing up to a studio audience.

Seven noses out of 10

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