November 27, 2007

Carry On Screaming

Oddbod gets a recharge. That’s Tom Clegg as the refrigerator-size, pointy-eared Frankenstein-like henchman rising from the slab in the 1966 horror send up, Carry On Screaming.

Billy Cornelius plays Oddbod Junior — seen here cavorting in the altogether — clone-grown from his twin’s severed finger. Surprisingly, the finger was not the middle one, a rare case of restraint for the Carry On gang, masters of the silly, saucy, nudge-nudge, wink-wink school of British comedy.

Made when the venerable series was at it’s creative height, Screaming comes roughly halfway through the list of thirty Carry On pictures released between 1958 and 1978, all of them produced by Peter Rogers, all directed by Gerald Thomas and reliably starring a familiar cast of regulars. The earlier films seem archaic today, the latter ones desperate and tired, but the middle ones — among them Carry On Doctor, Carry On Cleopatra and Carry On Screaming — are inspired and often inventive, while still firmly rooted in old school British Music Hall slapstick and double-entendre dialog.

The film benefits from a lively script by Talbot Rothwell and excellent performances. Its gorgeous photography is a pitch perfect spoof of Hammer Films esthetics.

Oh, how I hate these honest, law-abiding people! Why can’t everyone be thoroughly horrid? Like US!
— Dr. Orlando Watt

The ever-delirious Kenneth Williams plays Dr. Orlando Watt, a zombie mad scientist animated by regular juicings of electricity, as a cross between Peter Cushing and Ernest Thesiger. Aided by the Oddbod Twins, Dr. Watt kidnaps young women — virgins, for some reason — and "vitrifies" them, to be sold as store dummies. Detectives Bung and Slobotham investigate. Traditional Carry On humor includes a victim drowned in a toilet, bedroom gags and, inescapably, a burly cop in hideous drag. Horror elements, besides the Frankensteinian Oddbods (actually Neanderthals of some sort), include a Victorian, Hammer-style laboratory, a Jekyll-Hyde potion, an Invisible Man reference, and a reanimated Mummy.

Among other notable performances, Jon Pertwee (of Dr. Who fame) is delightful in a short bit as Doctor Fettle, and the towering, 6’7” Bernard Bresslaw appears as a Lurch-type butler named Socket. Interestingly, Bresslaw had been considered for the part of The Monster in Hammer’s Curse of Frankenstein (1957). The role, and a career in horror films, went to Christopher Lee instead and Bresslaw found his own fame in a completely different register. Although he was also a serious actor, a Shakespearian and a published poet, Bresslaw became a household name in Great Britain as a comic.

The standout performance in the film, however, belongs to willowy Fenella Fielding as the voluptuous Valeria, a worthy companion to Vampira, Elvira and Morticia Addams, with a striking difference: The pneumatic Valeria wears a blindingly scarlet dress instead of the traditional vamp black. Fielding, as Dr. Watt’s sinister sister, can’t keep her hands off the men, dead or alive, and delivers innuendos in what can only be described as an amused deadpan. When she asks, “Do you mind if I smoke?”, she then proceeds to do just that. Literally.

Carry On Screaming is genuinely funny, especially if you’re partial to Benny Hill-style eye rolling and dumber is funnier gags. It’s also a silly, gently mocking valentine to Hammer movies.

The Carry On Screaming page on Carry On Line.

Carry On Wiki page.


rob! said...

wow, i had heard of the Carry On series but never this one. looks sorta fun, in a very bizarre sorta way!

Pierre Fournier said...

Fun is a good word for it. You'll enjoy it, if you are willing to surrender to the silliness.

C. Shane McElveen said...

I'm definitely going to have to check these out. I love British humor.

Simon said...

You guys really need to watch this its dam funny one of my favorites is carry on screaming Kenneth Williams is himself as always very funny man and i always seem to let Fenella Fielding seduce me with her character lol.