James & Barrie Carry On's answer to Burton & Taylor
Occasionally the brains behind the Carry on movies liked to have fun with recognizable characters and historical stories rather than just coming up with something new. One of those movies is "Carry on Cleo" which takes the story of Mark Anthony, Caesar and Cleopatra and gives it a big dose of "Carry on" comedy. What that really means is the famous storyline is tinkered with so that whilst recognizable it has been adjusted to include new characters and plenty of comedy. And to be honest it works, "Carry on Cleo" is amusing and it looks surprisingly lavish for a "Carry On" movie.
Inventor Hengist Pod (Kenneth Connor - Carry on Constable) and his friend Horsa (Jim Dale - Carry on Spying) are captured by the invading Romans and are taken back to Rome where they are sold as slaves. But when they accidentally get into a fight, a case of mistaken identity leads to the less than macho Hengist becoming Julius Caesar's (Kenneth Williams - Carry on Jack) personal bodyguard. All is well until Hengist, Caesar and his trusted general Mark Anthony (Sid James - Carry on Regardless) visit Cleopatra (Amanda Barrie - Carry on Cabby) where Hengist ends up in the firing line of some nefarious plans.
Now I will be honest and say whilst probably featuring one of the most solid stories to ever grace a "Carry On" movie it is really just a vehicle for plenty of comedy. Having said that, the storyline is worked well with plenty of semi clever scenes such as the introduction to Hengist and Horsa before they are captured and sold as slaves. And to be honest all the tampering with the original storyline works because it keeps "Carry on Cleo" flowing with one funny scene after another. In many ways "Carry on Cleo" is probably the best of the "Carry On" movies which played with a recognizable storyline.
What also helps "Carry on Cleo" feel different to other "Carry On" movies is that it appears to be lavish. The sets are impressive as are the costumes and it certainly doesn't feel like it's been quickly made on a small budget. All of which makes it quite funny because they used the abandoned sets from the big budget "Cleopatra" and Sid James wore Richard Burton's costume from the film, which you have to say suited him remarkably well.
But to be honest "Carry on Cleo" despite the lavish look and the more solidly constructed storyline is all about the comedy and you get what you expect. That means there is some slapstick mixed with plenty of innuendo and to be honest yes it is fun although at the same time all quite familiar. That's not a complaint because "Carry on Cleo" makes you smile and the quality of the humour is definitely superior to what filled the later movies.
As with the comedy those "Carry On" regulars also deliver a certain amount of familiarity with Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey and Joan Sims all delivering plenty of laughs aided by the recognizable characters they play. But in a way it is Amanda Barrie who makes "Carry on Cleo" so much fun because she plays Cleopatra, the Queen of the Nile with a wonderful innocence and simplicity which just makes you laugh but delivering sexiness at the same time.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Carry on Cleo" looks better than your normal "Carry On" movie and has in many ways a more solid storyline is really just another "Carry On" movie which serves up a mix of innuendo and slapstick to bring a smile to your face. It's definitely superior to the "Carry On" movies from the 70s but somehow it feels weaker than those glorious ones which started the franchise.
Tags: Carry On Movies