Carry On England (1976)

England

A new commander takes charge of a Second World War army camp and is shocked to discover it’s a mixed-sex outfit…

What’s it spoofing? The film is trading on the popularity of contemporary sitcoms such as Dad’s Army (1968-1977), MASH (1972-1983) and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum (1974-1981), where a military organisation is made up of wisecracking soldiery and frustrated officers.

Funniest moment: Peter Jones’s brigadier keeps making weak puns then turning to his assistant expecting a complimentary laugh.

The Big 10:

* Kenneth Connor (16) plays Captain S. Melly. He’s trying his best, but the material’s just not there.

* Peter Butterworth (15) has little more than a cameo as Major Carstairs.

* Joan Sims (23) is given the underwritten role of Private Ffoukes Sharpe, which was originally offered to The Good Life’s Penelope Keith.

Notable others:

* Peter Jones, as mentioned, plays an army bigwig.

* Johnny Briggs – who was just about to join Coronation Street for a 30-year stint – appears as Melly’s driver.

* Windsor Davies is back from Carry On Behind to play Sergeant Major ‘Tiger’ Bloomer, a shouty character not a million barrack rooms away from his role in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.

* Patrick Mower, now of Emmerdale, is the de facto lead of the soldiers: Sergeant Len Able. It’s yet another attempt on the Carry On producers’ part to find a new Jim Dale.

* Judy Geeson plays Sergeant Tilly Willing. Geeson’s sister, Sally, had been in a couple of earlier Carry Ons.

* Jack Douglas plays Bombardier Ready (subtle surnames, aren’t they?) and does some more twitching.

* Melvyn Hayes – yet another It Ain’t Half Hot Mum star – plays Gunner Shorthouse.

* Diane Langton plays the ditzy and busty Alice Easy. The role was meant for Barbara Windsor.

* Patricia Franklin, in her fifth and final Carry On role, gets about three seconds on screen as a cook.

* Julian Holloway appears in a Carry On one last time, playing Major Butcher, the camp’s doctor.

Top totty: As strange as it feels to say – given that she now plays a granny in Hollyoaks – but Diane Langton’s quite cute.

Alternative version: The original edit of Carry On England – which I watched for this review – ran into trouble with the BBFC due to a scene of topless women and a gag punning on the word Fokker. So the cut released in 1976 toned the former down and replaced the latter with a different joke. Both versions are included in the DVD box set, though the milder one is VHS-quality for some reason.

Review: This film proves why so many of the earlier Carry On movies are still popular today: despite their obvious failings, none is as horrendously unloveable as this garbage. There’s barely a single laugh in the whole thing, while none of the regiment make any real impression – they get the screen time but they’re all so forgettable. Add in nonsensical slapstick, lots of post-dubbed dialogue and tacky sound effects, and you get a grotty little film.

Two battledress trousers (that is all) out of 10

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