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Carry on Follow That Camel (1967)

 
 
 

Sgt. Bilko joins the French Foreign Legion

Hello there, take off your clothes and pull up a chair - Sergeant Nocker

Peter Butterworth, Jim Dale and Phil Silvers in Carry on Follow That Camel (1967)

After being falsely accussed of cheating in a Cricket match, Englishman Bertram Oliphant West (Jim Dale - Carry on Don't Lose Your Head) decides to join the French Foreign Legion where he meets the ducking and diving Sergeant Nocker (Phil Silvers - Lucky Me). It doesn't take long for the two of them along with West's servent Simpson (Peter Butterworth - Carry On Screaming) to find themselves in trouble, captured by Sheikh Abdul Abulbul (Bernard Bresslaw - Carry on Cowboy). But West is shocked when he discovers the woman he left behind, Lady Jane Ponsonby (Angela Douglas) is in the Sheikhs harem having followed him in the hope of talking him to return home.

"Carry on Follow That Camel" was originally released as just "Follow That Camel" and that is probably a better title for it. The simple reason is that although it is a "Carry On" movie with many regular faces cast in central roles, ill health lead to Sid James being unable to star and so instead American comedian Phil Silvers took his part. That slight change has a major knock on effect because "Carry on Follow That Camel" plays like Sgt. Bilko joins the French Foreign Legion rather than a "Carry on" movie. And the risque comedy which became the mainstay of "Carry on" is lacking with what there is ending up quite dull.

Kenneth Williams, Phil Silvers and Peter Butterworth in Carry on Follow That Camel (1967)

So "Carry on Follow That Camel" like in the tradition of "Carry on" movies takes a recognizable story/historical element and tries to parody it. But in "Carry on Follow That Camel" the parody is built around the French Foreign Legion, the whole Beau Geste theme and frankly it doesn't work. In fact the whole storyline about an English gentleman joining the French Foreign Legion and then finding himself in deep trouble is utterly bland. I don't know what it is but within the first 20 minutes you struggle to find anything entertaining from the storyline, not that you expect it to be great, but you don't expect it to be this bland either.

Matters are not helped by the fact that the comedy is just as bland as the storyline. These later "Carry on" movies generally worked best when there are busty women, dirty laughs and a few sexual innuendos. But the humour never gets going in "Carry on Follow That Camel" failing to capture that risque nature which you expect and those jokes such as Lady Jane Ponsonby's repetive encounters with randy strangers ends up being just that repetitive and not very funny. Maybe the risque nature of "Carry on Follow That Camel" was toned down in order to launch the "Carry On" movies on an international scale but in doing so the essence of what made these later movies fun is completely lost.

But it has to be said that the casting of Phil Silvers causes the most issues, none of which are his fault as he was cast when Sid James fell ill. The trouble is that with Phil Silvers being so iconic as Sgt. Bilko "Carry on Follow That Camel" plays like Sgt. Bilko joins the French Foreign Legion rather than anything else. And whilst watching Phil Silvers duck and dive as Sgt. Nocker provides some amusement it's not enough to carry the movie.

Strangely quite a few of the "Carry on" regulars appear such as Kennth Williams, Jim Dale, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Peter Butterworth and Bernard Bresslaw but Phil Silvers is such a dominant force that they are pushed to the side lines. Even the addition of Angela Douglas and Anita Harris fails to ignite "Carry on Follow That Camel" and so it ends up being the Phil Silvers show rather than anyone else.

What this all boils down to is that "Carry on Follow That Camel" is a disappointing "Carry on" movie and basically the essence of what made these movies entertaining is completely missing. It doesn't help that with Phil Silvers cast it ends up playing like a Sgt. Bilko spin-off and although there are a few amusing scenes for the most "Carry on Follow That Camel" is rather dull and unfunny.

Tags: Carry On Movies

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