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Truly a comedy classic
on 6 September 2010
When it comes to choosing, from a handful of greats, the greatest Carry On film of all time, opinion divides. Many people seem to go for "Carry On Cleo" and its well-known "Infamy, infamy" scene. But for my money the finest film of the Carry On oeuvre is this thrilling yarn of derring-do and Her Majesty's 3rd Foot and Mouth Regiment (the "Devils in Skirts") set in 1895, at the very gateway to India, high up in the foothills of the Khyber Pass.
From the opening montage in which an elephant breaks wind and Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond looks accusingly at his wife (Joan Sims), the tone is set for a tale of the Great Game and the glory days of the Raj, related through the, some would say, completely inappropriate medium of Panto. All the regulars are here, the classic triumvirate of James, Williams and Hawtrey, ably abetted by a fine supporting cast; Bernard Bresslaw is a gleefully plausible border chieftain; Terry Scott as Sergeant-Major McNutt is an NCO straight out of George McDonald Fraser; Angela Douglas makes an alluring Princess Jelhi ("an appropriate name," as Sir Sidney gallantly informs her, "for one cast in so perfect a mould,") while Roy Castle as the dashing and resolute Captain Keene is quite plainly on the verge of corpsing in every take. All this accompanied by kilt gags, wince-inducing puns, gratuitous cross-dressing and "it's all we had in the studio" sound effects.
Anyone seeking to understand the history of British involvement on the North-West Frontier should watch this film, not because it is remotely accurate, but because it willl cheer them up.