Wednesday, May 14, 2003



For American readers of this web log, the Carry On films are a British Institution which never really made it across the Atlantic. Filmed mainly in the 1960s and 1970s they had a small cast of actors who reprised comedy stereotypes: the fat frumpy matron, the likely lad, the dolly bird, the effete homosexual etc. These characters were transported to various workplace and historical settings: Carry on Nurse, Carry on Up the Kyber, Carry on Camping etc, although the central premise rarely changed - the films were a light-hearted "romp", with humour based on innuendo and visual puns. Viewed now from the perspective of our 21st century jaded palettes, they appear utterly tame (although not politically correct - sexism, racial and camp stereotypes were de rigeur). This partially explains why the films lost their popularity by the end of the 1970s. The humour was very much "of its time", and the 1980s saw an explosion of "alternative comedy" in the UK, based around younger, hipper stand-up comedians who raged against Mrs Thatcher and conservative values. Apart from the final gasp of the ill-fated Carry on Columbus, the series was over.

Until now.

There is to be a new Carry-On film called Carry On London. David Jason, Dale Winton and Graham Norton have been touted to appear in it. It will probably also be a huge failure - with people lining up to say the "magic can't be recaptured" etc. And in a way this will be a shame. There's an innocence about the series which reminds me of my childhood. Carry on Screaming was the second non-cartoon film I ever watched all the way through (the first was the Wizard of Oz). I remember being utterly thrilled by it, and the theme music is still one of my favourite ever tunes.

So in order for the new Carry-On film to succeed, it needs to retain the camp humour, yet also update it. Perhaps it should return to its roots - set itself in the late 1960s/early 1970s - parody the mutton-chop sideburns and busty blondes and poke fun at the casual sexism of that period. It worked for Austin Powers and The Brady Bunch Movie. Then the film could have its cake and eat it. The post-modernists could laugh along at the naff jokes, knowing that what they were really laughing at was what people of earlier decades found to be funny. And everyone else could just enjoy it for what it is - gentle, familiar, seaside postcard humour which no longer should have any power to offend.

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