Movie Details
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Carry on Spying (1964)

 
 
 

Carry On Mission Improbable

Thank goodness for that, I thought I had been filed for life - Desmond Simkins

Bernard Cribbins, Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey in Carry on Spying (1964)

When a top secret formula is stolen by the Milchmann (Victor Maddern - Carry on Regardless), an agent of STENCH (the Society for the Total Extinction of Non-Conforming Humans), Agent Simkins (Kenneth Williams - Carry On Jack) and three trainees are given the mission to track him down and recover the formula. Sent to Vienna their bungling ways cause more trouble than good but somehow between them they come up trumps having got the formula back. But will they get back to Britain with it or will nefarious leader of STENCH, Dr Crow (Judith Furse - Carry on Cabby) manage to stop them.

"Carry on Spying" is what I would call old school "Carry On", the sort of "Carry On" movie which was made before the name "Carry On" became synonymous with being sex comedies. As such it has a reasonable storyline as it pastiches the whole spy movie genre and in a way feels like a predecessor to the "Naked Gun" movies of the 80s with a similar style. And whilst not featuring the greatest list of "Carry On" stars has just enough to feel right, especially with Barbara Windsor making her "Carry On" debut as secret agent Daphne Honeybutt. But strangely "Carry on Spying" is one of my least favourite "Carry On" movies because it is dominated by Kenneth Williams camping it up through out as Desmond Simkins and his over the top campness ends up being more annoying than amusing.

Bernard Cribbins and Barbara Windsor in Carry on Spying (1964)

So as alreay mentioned "Carry on Spying" is very much a pastiche on the secret agent/ spy movie with many elements of the genre drawn upon and made fun of. The opening as we watch the Milchmann walk into a laboratory through a series of doors which all have signs on "such as keep locked" is fun and is now very reminiscent of how the "Naked Gun" movies started in the 80s. And that flow of humour continues through out as we are introduced to Simpkins and the new recruits who are sent on a mission to Vienna to retrieve a stolen top secret formula. It is a simple storyline and pretty much what you expect from a "Carry On" movie but it works in the clever way it makes fun of the secret agent genre and is more than just a vehicle for a series of set piece gags.

As such the comedy in "Carry on Spying" actually flows quite naturally with the storyline mixing sexual innuendo with some great slapstick, such as the scene where Bernard Cribbins tries to get into the warehouse without realising that there is a door in the big wooden gates. It is all very obvious but the timing throughout is just perfect so it all ends up mostly amusing rather than daft and unoriginal. And what is also nice is that the sexual innuendo whilst clearly present, especially with Barbara Windsor as Daphne Honeybutt in a figure hugging outfit, doesn't dominate the movie, just there providing some nice variety to the laughs.

But the thing is whilst "Carry on Spying" features a few of the "Carry On" regulars with Jim Dale really standing out as an amusingly suave agent as well as it marking the debut of Barbara Windsor's "Carry On" movie career, it all ends up being about Kenneth Williams. In small doses Kenneth Williams delivering an over the top camp performance is amusing but in "Carry on Spying" he is so over the top he ends up dominating the whole movie despite scenes being shared out quite equally amongst the cast. And the knock on effect of Williams dominating the movie is that he ends up being annoying with that grating over the top voice and a sense of smugness. Which is a shame, as the likes of Charles Hawtrey, Bernard Cribbins and Barbara Windsor are all on great form, they are just pushed into the shadows by Williams' over the top spotlight stealing.

What this all boils down to is that "Carry on Spying" ends up being an annoying movie purely because Kenneth Williams over the top campness dominates it. And it is a shame as the spoofing of secret agent movies and the variety of comedy is all pretty good as are the performances of the rest of the cast. But because Kenneth Williams is giving it his all as Desmond Simkins it ends up being all about him.

Tags: Carry On Movies

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