Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Carry On Legacy - Carry on Spying: 1964

Carry On Spying is a 1964 film, the ninth movie in the Carry On film series. It marks Barbara Windsor's first appearance in the series. Series regulars Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey are present. Bernard Cribbins makes the second of his three Carry On appearances (although it would be 28 years before he returned). Eric Barker appears for his third entry (his final appearance would be in Carry On Emmanuelle 14 years later). Dilys Laye returns after her debut in Carry On Cruising. Carry On Spying is the last Carry On film shot in black and white.
A top secret chemical formula has been stolen by STENCH (the Society for the Total Extinction of Non-Conforming Humans). Fearful of what would happen if that formula fell into the wrong hands, the Chief of the Secret Service reluctantly sends the only agent he has left, the bumbling and snide Agent Desmond Simpkins, (Kenneth Williams) and his three trainees, Agent Harold Crump, (Bernard Cribbins) Agent Daphne Honeybutt, (Barbara Windsor), and Agent Charlie Bind (Charles Hawtrey), to find the formula.
The Agents are hot on the trail, chasing the villains across the world. Their pursuit takes them to Vienna, and to Algiers. Upon the way they encounter the STENCH agents, the Fat Man and Milchmann (who stole the formula disguised as a milkman). Unfortunately the agents' lack of experience results in their contact agent, Carstairs (Jim Dale), being floored in an encounter with the Fat Man, and they also encounter the mysterious Lila (Dilys Laye), whom they are uncertain if they can trust.
Co-scripted by Talbot Rothwell and Sid Colin, it clearly has its comic sights set on From Russia With Love (d. Terence Young, 1963), initiating the series of film parodies that came to dominate most of the subsequent Carry Ons of the 1960s. It also mocks other spy films such as The Third Man (d. Carol Reed, 1949), aping its famous zither music and having Jim Dale fall into the Vienna sewers that featured prominently in that classic film's climax. In an ironic reversal, however, a scene featuring a murderous milkman armed with explosive milk bottles later turned up in a genuine Bond adventure, The Living Daylights (d. John Glen, 1987).
At this stage of the series, the humour was still comparatively genteel and the tempo a little less scattershot, allowing Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey (as Charley Bind) to shine together in a number of longer, more slowly paced scenes, such as the initial agents' briefing and an extended sequence showing their breaking into a warehouse.


Published by


Volume 31, No.368, September 1964, pages 133-4


Top secret Formula "X" is stolen from a War Department research establishment by an agent disguised as a milk roundsman. BOSH (British Operational Security) discovers that the agent is named Milchmann and that he is in the employ of the subversive organisation known as STENCH (Society for Total Extinction of Non-Conforming Humans), headed by the mysterious Dr. Crow. Unfortunately, the Chief of BOSH is short of agents, so Desmond Simkins, normally put out of harm's way as head of trainee spies, is sent to Vienna with his latest bunch of recruits-Harold Crump, Charlie Bind and Daphne Honeybutt. In Vienna they find Milchmann murdered and the formula gone; but the trail leads to Algiers and another STENCH agent, The Fat Man, from whom they re-cover the formula, then make their escape by train, hotly pursued by STENCH agents, now led by the beautiful Lila. Just before they are captured, they destroy the formula by eating it, after Daphne, who has a photographic memory, has committed it to memory. They are taken to the underground headquarters of STENCH where the sinister Dr. Crow is driven mad by Daphne's naturally brainless resistance to brainwashing. Thwarted in her attempts to secure the formula, Dr. Crow sends the quartet to their doom in the Automation Plant, but they are saved by the intervention of Lila, who reveals herself as a counter-agent belonging to SNOG (Society for the Neutralisation of Germs). Having gleefully tripped the auto-destruct switch, they make their escape by the emergency exit and emerge in the Chief's office at BOSH to discover that STENCH headquarters, due to blow up at any minute, are directly underneath....

Straight off the Carry On assembly line, this spoof on James Bondery looses a few random and very limp satirical shafts, but is for the most part content to stick to routine: in other words, a few bright gags are buried in a waste of coy camp, female impersonation and mildly smutty jokes. Bernard Cribbins manages to be quite funny, especially when disguised as an Oriental harridan in an Algiers bordello (with Renée Houston appearing briefly as the Madame), twanging desultorily at a stringed instrument and emitting a piercing parody of Eastern song in quarter-tone style; as a newcomer to the team, Barbara Windsor is decidedly an asset; and Dilys Laye is charming as Lila.

The Monthly Film Bulletin was published by the British Film Institute between 1934 and 1991. Initially aimed at distributors and exhibitors as well as filmgoers, it carried reviews and details of all UK film releases. In 1991, the Bulletin was absorbed by Sight and Sound magazine.

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