Sergeant Grimshaw wants to retire in the flush of success by winning the Star Squad prize with his very last platoon of newly called-up National Servicemen. But what a motley bunch they ... See full summary »
Sergeant Grimshaw wants to retire in the flush of success by winning the Star Squad prize with his very last platoon of newly called-up National Servicemen. But what a motley bunch they turn out to be, and it's up to Grimshaw to put the no-hopers through their paces. Written by
Simon N. McIntosh-Smith <Simon.N.Smith@cs.cf.ac.uk>
And subtle this is, making Sergeant an extremely strange Carry On experience.
As the first of the original five films these form, along with Cabby, (not counting the intentional noir of Spying), the only examples of the series in black and white. Far away from the whistles and bells, boobs and bums of the accepted format, the largely all-male cast plays out a light character comedy. The few female roles are better developed than in the 70s; something you might suspect would be the other way around.
There's the odd sight of players who never made a repeat appearance, such as stars William Hartnell and smug Bob Monkhouse, here quite good in his dashing leading man role. Of what were to become the regulars, Charles Hawtrey is his usual self in one of his funniest performances, though it's weird to see Kenneth Williams actually acting. Here he plays it straight as Jim, the spoilt rich kid with a degree. His bolshie character "don't you think this is a trifle out of date in a world bristling with H-bombs, Sergeant?" is quite refreshing, and Williams plays him with admirable conviction. Later he would opt for camping up his roles in more and more over the top performances, which were nevertheless much funnier. This is what marks the fundamental difference between Sergeant and the majority of the franchise; it has a greater mark of quality, but it isn't that amusing.
Occasional lines show what was to come ("Your rank?" "Well that's a matter of opinion") and there's also the "raise your back sight" line and the scene with the fire extinguishers. Some of the jokes are a little obvious, such as Kenneth Connor's vaguely irritating hypochondriac being called Strong. Though the relative cleanness of his ultimate medical check up shows how much broader and coarser the series was to become. This is more in the traditional mould, where the comedy arises out of the situation, rather than the situation being contrived around non-stop jokes and innuendo. While the next year's follow-up, Nurse would see quite racy shaving and daffodil scenes, it was still tied in to the same sort of (relative) naturalistic performances. It wasn't until around 1962's Cruising that the Carry Ons as they're most remembered started to emerge. This is strange, because while the first seven films with their sub-Ealing sensibilities now seem out of place in the franchise, they ARE the Carry On franchise. The Talbot Rothwell scripts which are so well remembered are actually subversions of the series into broader comedy. Certainly dated, Sergeant's humour is unusually underdefined, particularly in a modern context. This is the film all over, then: commendable, if not actually all that funny.
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