Carry On At Your Convenience (1971)

AtYourConvenience

The workforce at toilet factory WC Boggs & Son go on strike, but the industrial action is suspended when the annual staff day out comes round…

What’s it spoofing? The workplace, daytrips and general working-class life. Strike action and the trade-union movement are also being satirised. The film’s original title was Carry On Comrade, then switched to Carry On Working before getting its lavatorial name. (In other countries, where the pun might not work, it was rebranded Carry On Round the Bend.)

Funniest moment: Miss Withering is unhappy to learn that the company may be sold and she might not be Mr Boggs’s secretary for much longer. ‘“I appreciate your loyalty, my dear…” he says to her. “No, you don’t,” she replies, getting manic. “You never have appreciated me. I’ve worked for you for 30 years, and in all that time have you ever sat me on your knee or asked me to go away for a naughty weekend? You’ve never even pinched my bottom!”

The Big 10:

* Joan Sims (17) plays earthy, up-for-a-giggle factory worker Chloe Moore. She gets a sweet flirtation with colleague Sid: both are in dull marriages, and clearly want to take things further but can’t go through with it. Sims said in her autobiography that she wasn’t keen on this film.

* Bernard Bresslaw (9) is Bernie Hulke, who’s the lead trade unionist’s sidekick. The actor gets to say his old catchphrase – “I only arsked!” – at one point.

* Sid James (15) plays pipe-and-cardigan factory foreman Sid Plummer. It’s a deliberately more fatherly and less skirt-chasey character than James had been playing in recent films (it’s more like his character in sitcom Bless This House, which had started earlier that year). His sort-of romance with Chloe ends with a touching scene outside her house, which is really well performed by both actors.

* Kenneth Williams (20) plays WC Boggs, the ridiculously named owner of the factory. Williams is practically a different persona each time we see him – there’s no throughline at all. Was he just amusing himself?

* Charles Hawtrey (21) is flamboyant lavatory designer Charles Coote, who gets a throwaway subplot with his landlady.

* Hattie Jacques (11) plays Sid’s dippy wife, Beattie. She dotes on her budgie, who has a nack of picking winning horses when the runners are read out to him. Aside from a couple of scenes right at the end, Jacques’s stuff is with just Sid James.

Notable others:

* Kenneth Cope plays the officious shop steward, Vic Spanner, who calls his colleagues out on strike at the slightest sleight. (The exterior set of his house was a standing set left over from 1970 Billy Wilder film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.)

* Patsy Rowlands plays secretary Miss Withering.

* Jacki Piper crops up again, as tea girl Myrtle (Sid’s daughter).

* Richard O’Callaghan is Lewis Boggs, the boss’s son, who gets a romance plotline with Myrtle.

* Geoffrey Hughes appears as a minor factory worker.

* Bill Maynard is Chloe’s boring husband, Fred.

* Harry Towb plays an expert introducing a sex film, which Lewis takes Myrtle to see.

* Shirley Stelfox – who’s been in Emmerdale since 2000 – has a small role as a Playboy Bunny-type waitress.

* Julian Holloway plays a posh mate of Lewis’s.

* Margaret Nolan shows up in the second half as pigtailed Popsy, who joined the company immediately before the strike so gets to go on the outing to Brighton. The incidental music quotes Goldfinger (which Nolan appeared in) during one of her close-ups.

* Anouska Hempel appears at the end as a new canteen girl that Vic takes a shine to.

* Terry Scott was in the original cut of the movie, as a trade-union official called Mr Allcock, but his scenes were deleted before release. Also completely cut from the final print was Bill Pertwee as a nightclub owner.

Top totty: Margaret Nolan.

Kenneth Williams says: “Pinewood. Finished by 10.30, washed the hair etc, then foolishly went into the bar, and talked with Peter Rogers [producer] who insisted on my having a drink – I ended up having two so of course I was pissed by lunchtime! Kenneth Cope sat next to me at lunch and I’ve always thought him most exciting so of course I was coming out with all the stupid stuff like ‘What does it feel like to be so desirable?’ & generally embarrassing him dreadfully.” – Wednesday 7 April 1971 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p398)

Review: The management characters in this story are sympathetic, generally considerate and pragmatic, while the lefty shop steward is a bumbling, thin-skinned, rule-obsessed idiot. A film ridiculing trade unions and workers’ rights probably wasn’t the best idea in the world, and the film suffered at the box office because it was seen to be patronising its core audience. But politics and toilet humour aside – and there are a lot of lavatorial gags – this is actually an enjoyable throwback to the earlier Carry Ons. It’s more character-based and more grounded in an everyday scenario than most. After an hour there’s an inelegant turn in the story – the strike plotline downs tools and we then get a 30-minute daytrip sequence filmed in Brighton, which is infectious fun.

Eight bidets out of 10

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