Although I yield to no-one in my admiration of Sid James, Carry Ons Spying and Screaming are two of the most enjoyable, fully-realised movies of that long series, even without his presence. Sid gradually became the dominant personality in the films and, fun as that always was, there's a sense that, in his absence, the rest of the gang get more of a look in, get more of the centre-stage business to do and consequently raise their game bigtime.
The beautiful double act of Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey sets the tone, their performances a perfect balance of knowingness and cheeky abandonment to whatever fun is waiting around the next corner. It says a lot about how brittle and inflexible the James Bond machine was becoming even in 1964 that the Broccoli organisation brought out the lawyers and instructed them to cut the legs off this mildest, most affectionate of parodies. Fortunately for us, they didn't succeed beyond forcing Hawtrey's "James Bind" to become "Charles Bind" -a name that director Lindsay Shonteff also used in his seventies Bond take-off, "Licensed to Love and Kill", starring (and I'm not kidding) Gareth Hunt.
But Bond isn't the only target for the spoofery. The Third Man gets a wink, as does Modesty Blaise; in fact, every cliché (sorry: archetype) of the spy genre has a friendly raspberry blown in its face, and the fact that "Carry On Spying" ticks a lot of the boxes more satisfyingly than at least half a dozen of the Bond films says a lot for the makers' fondness for the genre they were sending up (and it's important to stress that this is a spoof, not a piss-take; there's no sneering involved).
This was Barbara Windsor's first Carry On film, pub-quizzers, and also stars Sir (at least in our house) Bernard Cribbins. And any film that features Victor Maddern as a super-spy belongs on some kind of plinth in the museum of Sunday afternoon hangover telly.