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Carry On Constable [DVD]
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Fourth entry in the 'Carry On' series. Police Sergeant Wilkins (Sid James, in his 'Carry On' debut) has a new batch of inept recruits on his hands, whose idea of covert surveillance involves dressing up in drag. Bumbling PCs include Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Connor and Leslie Phillips.
Made in 1960, Carry On Constable is one of the earliest Carry On comic romps, arriving before they'd carved out their bawdy niche in British cinema. In fact, this Gerald-Thomas-directed effort isn't dissimilar to most of the mainstream Brit-com of its era. A flu epidemic has forced a police station to take on a brace of callow recruits: Kenneth Connor, a superstitious bag of nerves; Leslie Phillips, playing his usual rapscallion self; the ludicrously effete Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Williams. The "plot" is a sequence of thoroughly creaky gags at the expense of this bumbling quartet. The staple characters hadn't settled into their "classic" personae yet. Here, Sid James is an exasperated sergeant, not the sort of crinkly rogue he played in later years, Kenneth Williams is dry, detached and supercilious, while Hattie Jacques is no matron but a sympathetic sergeant, whose every walk-on is not yet accompanied by the portly strains of tubas and bassoons. The comedy here is, frankly, dismal--banana skins are slipped upon and officers' legs urinated upon bydogs, all to a rueful soundtrack of wah-wah trumpets. The main appeal of this movie is as a period slice of damp, pre-Beatles London in glorious black and white.
On the DVD: Although picture and sound are adequate (though poorly dubbed in places), there are no extras at all, a shame for the hardcore Carry On aficionados to whom this release would surely, perhaps exclusively, appeal. --David Stubbs --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I love the quaintness of these slightly older Carry On.. films. Yes, they are dated, but charmingly so, making the viewer rather nostalgic for times gone by when the world seemed a far simpler place.
Carry On Constable introduced the wonderful Sid James to the series, he would become one of the most beloved actors to Carry On film fans. Ironically "Constable" finds James somewhat removed from the type of character he would become known for, it's a restrained role and showcases his acting abilities as an official figure type, the glue binding the whole play together.
The fourth film in the Carry On series retains the more genteel comedy factors that had imbued the previous three outings, though this would be the first to show nudity! Four policemen's bums gleaming bright! A scene that provides a splendid anecdote in Kenneth Williams brilliant book, Just Williams (I urge anyone interested in classic film/TV/radio/stage to check it out).
Plot basically pitches the four recruits, Williams, Leslie Phillips, Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Connor (brilliant as usual as a superstitious sort) into a number of chaotic physical situations mined for laughs. Back at the station Sgt. Frank Wilkins (James) is pulling his hair out at the ineptitude of his new charges - and that of his ignoramus boss, Inspector Mills (Eric Barker). Joan Sims is on hand to steam the collar of Kenny Connor, just as Phillips lusts after any female form, while Hattie Jaques provides a glimpse of her tender character acting side as the station's sensible soul.
There's some drag dressings played for good laughs, a whole bunch of scenes where the not so intrepid coppers get taken for fools, and a few deftly scripted lines guaranteed to raise a smile. Elsewhere there's a raft of super character actors in cameos who beautifully portray the classic eccentricities of the Brits of the era, so take a bow Irene Handl, Esma Cannon and Joan Hickson (wonderful as a posh drunken lush). Never riotous or bawdy, "Constable" is still a fondly thought of entry in the long running series, as are most of the black and white productions. It shows a group of film makers very much of the time and using it to the max. Lovely. 8/10
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