Director – Gerald Thomas, Screenplay – Sid Colin & Talbot Rothwell, Producer – Peter Rogers, Photography (b&w) – Alan Hume, Music – Eric Rogers, Art Direction – A. Vetchinsky. Production Company – Anglo-Amalgamated.
Kenneth Williams (Desmond Simkins), Bernard Cribbins (Harold Crump), Barbara Windsor (Daphne Honeybutt), Charles Hawtrey (Charlie Bind), Eric Pohlmann (The Fat Man), Judith Furse (Dr Crow), Dilys Laye (Lila), Eric Barker (The Chief), Richard Wattis (Cobley)
When a top secret formula is stolen from a research lab by STENCH – the Society for Total Extermination Non-Conforming Humans – the British Intelligence assigns four idiotic trainee agents to retrieve it. They succeed in obtaining the formula back from a harem in Algiers. However, in their efforts to return to England, they are captured by STENCH’s Dr Crow, the first of a new breed of half-man, half-woman, who tortures them to get the formula.
This was the eighth of the Carry On films, a long-running comedy series that began with Carry On Sergeant (1958) and would go on for a total of 31 films. Each of the films spoofed a different genre, ranging from the Western, the war film. assorted historical periods and the softcore Emmanuelle films. The only other entry in the series of genre interest is Carry On Screaming (1966), which parodies the Hammer horror film. All of the films were directed by Gerald Thomas and produced by Peter Rogers.
This is the Carry On team’s jump on the 1960s spy craze that was created by the success of the James Bond films. The Bond films had begun a couple of years earlier with Dr No (1962) and its third entry Goldfinger (1964) did not come out until a month after this, indicating just how popular the fad had become. It would be followed by an amazing array of giidy, psychedelic and increasingly silly parodies and imitators. (See my essay Spy Films for more detail).
As one might expect with a Carry On film, it is a numbing battery of crude sexual innuendoes and bad puns. Probably the only thing that could be said in the film’s favour is that it comes at a fast lick.
The campy, fey, cheekiness of Kenneth Williams, crunching every nuance ten times more than it is worth, is gaping in its awfulness. It is matched by a series of other awful performances that scrape the bottom of the barrel but never quite get close to Williams. The sight of Bernard Cribbins in a harem bikini, wailing while plucking at a guitar and pretending to belly dance, is truly amazing to watch for the depths of self-deprecation some performers will go in the name of their profession. The neglected member of the team is top-heavy Barbara Windsor, who struggles valiantly against the constant barrage of sexual putdowns thrown in her direction.