Carry On Spying (1964)


UK. 1964.


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. The only other entry in the series of genre interest is Carry On Screaming (1966), which parodies the Hammer horror film.

This is the Carry On team’s jump on the 1960s spy craze that was created by the success of the James Bond films. 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.

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