Although not planned as such (it was based on an RF Delderfield play, The Bull Boys), this waggish army farce, with Hartnell as the roaring sergeant coping with his National Service awkward squad, became the granddaddy of the Carry On series. Built around a resident comic team (notably Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims and Charles Hawtrey), with occasional guests of the calibre of Frankie Howerd and Phil Silvers, the series notched up 28 titles from Carry On Nurse (1959) to Carry on Emmanuelle (1978), all produced by Peter Rogers and directed by Gerald Thomas, mostly written by Talbot Rothwell. Slapdash in conception and execution, the films nominally satirised British customs and institutions or other movie genres, but soon became bogged down in a preoccupation with tits and bums, celebrated in a non-stop flow of innuendo and excruciating puns. The earlier films (Carry On Cleo, 1964, being one of the best) had their moments; but the routines became increasingly mechanical, the jokes increasingly laboured (sample from Carry On Dick, 1974: 'As soon as I got into her room, she asked me to bath with her' -'Perhaps she wanted to show you the delights of that fair city'). Paul Taylor neatly summed up the whole phenomenon in a comment on Carry On Up the Khyber (1968): 'The sun obstinately refusing to set on a British comedy empire founded on such fearsome mythologies as what a Highlander (from the 3rd Foot and Mouth, naturally) wears under his kilt. Prodigiously awful in the tradition of “it may be rubbish, but it's English rubbish”.
Cast and crew