A lot of folks are out of work. Bert Handy (Sam Vimes Sid James) starts up an odd-job agency called “Helping Hands.” The premise provides quite a bit of variety in setting at the expense of narrative structure — the cast circulate through a series of odd jobs, culminating at the end with an all-cast home-repair-themed extravaganza.
Delia King (newcomer Liz Fraser) gets the first job: privately modeling a complete women’s wardrobe for a male customer buying clothes for his wife. This complete wardrobe mostly consists of lingerie. When the customer’s wife comes home unexpectedly, she hides in the closet where she does not meet R. Kelly. That would be funny. This scene is not funny. Funny is not the point here.
Kenneth Williams takes a chimp for a walk, Kenneth Connor is retained to make a sociopathic woman’s husband jealous, Charles Hawtrey ends up in a boxing ring due to circumstances too contrived to waste time explaining. There’s more, and they are all cringeworthy to entertaining in varying degrees. Some of them are are really long trips for a short day at the beach; For example, Williams gets a job as a male model only to find out (of course) that the gig is not quite as glamorous as he hoped.
Joan Sims gets her best scene yet, though. She’s retained o take invitations to a wine tasting, but when she’s invited to join the group afterwards it becomes quickly apparent that she doesn’t understand what wine tastings are. “What are you doing down there?” a guest asks. “Trying to stand up,” she slurs back. This scene is a great bit of slapstick, something for which she’d demonstrated an early knack. In High Spirits, Sims shares that when she won the “Mabel Temperley Prize for Grace and Charm of Movement,” for her RADA Public Show performance she couldn’t resist:
…[A]s I reached the top of the stairs leading off the stage I deliberately missed my footing and went through the whole comedy trip-down-the stairs routine.
Another excellent sequence amounts to a brief genre satire — the kind of thing Carry On would tackle in movies like Carry On Screaming, Carry On Spying, and Carry On Cowboy. Kenneth Connor’s “Sam Twist” gets sent on what he thinks is a spy mission. It’s far-fetched even by this movie’s standards, but as a stand-alone sketch satirizing the spy-on-a-train genre, it’s perfect.
How much you like the movie, however, probably depends on how much you like Professor Stanley Unwin. Unwin’s schtick, which he had apparently been doing since the late forties, was to speak in glossolalic gibberish he called “Unwinese.” He is undeniably proficient at it. And Unwin was apparently well-loved, showing up on rock television, radio, rock albums, and movies (including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) for several decades.
Here he is on a tire commercial in 1979:
For my part, I thought it was clever for the first thirty seconds and then I just wanted to get on with it. Unfortunately he’s a recurring character and all other activity stops for several minutes.
This is not my favorite of the Carry Ons, but it does give me a chance to mention something about this exercise. I am deliberately not binge-watching these movies. I have roughly two full days of video to watch — 44 hours, give or take — and even if they were all excellent I can’t imagine enjoying the last third if this gets turned into an endurance contest. So if the next post you see here is not about Carry On, don’t worry — I will return to it soon enough.