Carry On Columbus (1992)

Columbus

In 1492, a Turkish ruler learns of an explorative voyage to the Indies, which might rob him of income from trading taxes. So he sends an agent to infiltrate Christopher Columbus’s crew…

What’s it spoofing? This film came out 500 years after Columbus sailed across the Atlantic and found the American continent. He wasn’t the first European to do so and he never actually set foot on what is now the USA (he bounced around the Caribbean and South America), but the anniversary was still big news. Two other films on this subject came out in the same year as this final Carry On movie: Ridley Scott’s 1492: Conquest of Paradise and John Glen’s Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. None of the three did very well.

Funniest moment: Marco warns Chiquita not to fall into the water as there are sharks nearby. “Will they eat me whole?” she asks. “No,” he replies, “I’ve heard they spit that out.”

The Big 10:

* Jim Dale (11) returns for his first Carry On since the 1960s to play Columbus – he did it as a favour to director Gerald Thomas.

Notable others:

* Rik Mayall has a fun, petulant cameo as Abdul the Benevolent, the Sultan of Turkey (“NEEEEEXT!”).

* Nigel Planer, Mayall’s Young Ones co-star, plays his lackey, the Wazir.

* Tony Slattery appears as Baba the Messenger, who trots out the old “I have come hotfoot”/cut-to-his-feet-giving-off-steam joke.

* Burt Kwouk plays a trader called, um, Wang. THIS WAS THE 90s, PEOPLE!

* Sara Crowe might be the best thing in the film: she gets the arch tone perfectly as skilled-but-naive Turkish agent Fatima.

* Martin Clunes plays Martin, a dim customer in Columbus’s map shop.

* Peter Richardson sounds like he’s dubbed all his own dialogue himself for the role of Columbus’s brother, Bart, who draws the maps for his shop but keeps putting naked mermaids on them.

* Alexei Sayle – another Young Ones veteran – plays Achmed, the Sultan’s man in Lisbon, who accompanies Fatima on her mission.

* Bernard Cribbins plays Mordecai Mendoza, a former Jew who’s now a Christian. He has a map of the far west so comes along on the voyage.

* Leslie Phillips is King Ferdinand; it’s the actor’s first Carry On appearance in 32 years. The role was first offered to Frankie Howerd, but he died just days before production began. Bernard Bresslaw was then asked to step in, but he said no.

* June Whitfield is the Queen of Spain. Both Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor turned the part down.

* Maureen Lipman plays Countess Esmerelda, a Spanish noblewoman with two pretty daughters who ends up on the ship by accident. She gets to reprise Joan Sims’s ‘the count’ gag from Don’t Lose Your Head.

* Jon Pertwee’s fourth Carry On cameo is a doddery old man being married off to one of Esmerelda’s daughters.

* Holly Aird and Rebecca Lacey play the daughters, Maria and Chiquita. The former flirts with Burt.

* Lynda Baron pops up for about five seconds as a local woman.

* Richard Wilson plays Don Juan Felipe, an inspector appointed by the king to oversee the voyage.

* Julian Clary plays Don Juan Diego (“I’m Juan too!”), a jailer who’s bored with his job so joins Columbus’s crew.

* Keith Allen appears as the ship’s cook, Pepi the Poisoner.

* Daniel Peacock plays Tonto the Torch, the Andalusia Arsonist.

* Jack Douglas has a role smaller than most of his 1970s characters: Marco the Cereal Killer (so named because he beats his victims to death with a sack of Rice Crispies).

* Don Henderson is likewise barely on screen; he plays the bosun.

* Peter Gilmore’s 11th and obviously final Carry On character is the governor of the Canary Islands.

* Chris Langham, Charles Fleischer and Larry Miller are reasonably funny as the incongruously savvy and civilized natives who Columbus and co find in the Americas. They have New York accents and attitudes.

Top totty: Whatever happened to Sara Crowe?

Review: With so many of the old guard dead or unwilling to return, this restart of the series – after a 14-year gap – introduced a much-hyped ‘new generation’ of talent. It basically boils down to a few people who had been around for a decade by this point and a hotchpotch of jobbing comedy actors. If there’s any significant change to the Carry On formula it’s in the flashes of Monty Python-style surrealism. But there’s still a surfeit of corny jokes, a plethora of cultural stereotypes and far too many cultural stereotypes standing in for corny jokes. It *is* rubbish, there’s no denying that. But it’s no worse than the sludge being produced at the end of the 1970s. Go in with low expectations and it raises a smile occasionally.

Four cigars out of 10

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