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Carry on chopping!!
on 9 April 2003
DON'T LOSE YOUR HEAD
(UK - 1967)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Theatrical soundtrack: Mono
During the French Revolution, the villainous Citizen Camembert (a perpetually outraged Kenneth Williams) goes in search of the notorious 'Black Fingernail' (Sid James), an unidentified British aristocrat who's been crossing the English Channel to rescue his French counterparts from the guillotine.
The second and final entry in the long-running series not to feature 'Carry On' in its title due to political fall-out from a change of UK distributor (the first was FOLLOW THAT CAMEL in 1966), DON'T LOSE YOUR HEAD demonstrates yet again that screenwriter Talbot Rothwell was at his best when indulging his fondness for historical burlesque. Sumptuously mounted on various high-blown locations (including Clandon Park and Waddesdon Manor, with interiors filmed at Pinewood studios), the film's ribald parody of the French Revolution encompasses everything from silly character names (Camembert is the local 'big cheese', aided and abetted by the gormless Citizen Bidet, while the Black Fingernail conceals his true identity under the foppish pseudonym of Sir Rodney Ffing - "with two F's!") to puns, sight gags and lowbrow slapstick. In other words, the formula as before. But like so many of the better Carry On's, the comedy is rooted in a well-developed storyline, augmented by the usual array of flamboyant characters and eccentric supporting players.
Highlights include Charles Hawtrey as a jolly French aristocrat, and Joan Sims as Williams' Cockney-spouting sister (Sims and Hawtrey share an unlikely seduction sequence midway through the film which culminates in a terrific 'please yourself' gag). Sid James and Jim Dale are the nominal heroes of the piece, camping it up with affectionate glee, while Peter Butterworth excels as Williams' dimwitted lackey, forever lusting after Sims and shouting: "Equality! Fraternity! Liberty!" (to which Sims retorts: "I don't care about the equalities and the fraternities, but I'm NOT having the liberties!"). But as usual, Kenneth Williams walks away with the picture, overplaying every gesture, emphasizing every double entendre, and milking every gag for all its considerable worth. An absolute comic gem!
Director Gerald Thomas keeps the pot boiling throughout, and production values are solid. Watch out for a couple of mistakes which made it into the final print (Williams' hat being knocked by Butterworth in a cramped carriage, and Sims almost falling over whilst admiring a lovely new dress), betraying a rushed production schedule. Favourite gag: Hawtrey brags to a group of young women that he escaped the guillotine by slaying half a dozen of his captors, and one gushing admirer declares: "What a bloody sight it must have been." Hawtrey, quick as a flash, retorts: "M'dear, if me sword hadn't broken, it'd have been a bloody sight more!" Genius.