Saturday, 29 October 2016

Carry On Sergeant (1958)

"Your rank?"

"Well, that's a matter of opinion..."

It's almost a cliche to point out that the first of the Carry Ons is not in any way like what we would later think of as a Carry On film. There's relatively little smut, not many of the tropes and it feels very much like a one-off comedy about National Service. William Hartnell is excellent in one of his signature sergeant roles- he was horribly typecast at this point- while Bob Monkhouse is, well, Bob Monkhouse. But the film is only mildly diverting, holding the attention but not exactly a laugh a minute. What raises a so-so script from mediocrity are the performances of certain members of its ensemble cast.

Charles Hawtrey, to begin with, is a huge comic talent wherever he appears. And you know exactly what to expect from him. Kenneth Connor is superb in his major role as Horace here, and a strangely non-camp Kenneth Williams impresses in what is only a middling part. Hattie Jacques is also superb as the exasperated doctor. This is a textbook case of a film being elevated by its cast.

Yet Hartnell, too, is an excellent straight man and it's a shame this is his only Carry On. It's a film well worth seeing for the performances and the curiosity value.

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