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What was more deserving in its day of being given a glorious sendup than the
monumental production of "Cleopatra" with Liz and Dick's on- and off-set
romantic interludes, so fulsomely (and scandalously - Can you believe it?!?)
documented in worldwide tabloids?
20th-Century Fox rather carelessly left behind some quite elaborate sets at Pinewood Studios when production on the first attempt to film this spectacular under the direction of Rouben Mamoulian had to be shut down and then abandoned in London, when Elizabeth Taylor experienced one of her many life-threatening illnesses. (Other IMDb-ers err in stating that the abandoned sets used were those from the Joseph L. Mankiewicz version filmed at Cinecitta in Rome and on various locations in Italy, Spain and Egypt.) When M-G-M finished production of "Ben-Hur" (1959) in Italy they prudently destroyed the massive sets to prevent those cleverly thrifty Italian producers of sword-and-sandal "epics" from taking advantage of the bounty left behind.
The "Carry On" series may not have translated all that well to American shores, but I recall standing in line in Westwood, California, to see "Carry On Nurse" and enjoyed several of the later productions in this lengthy British franchise of satirical and slapstick humor. They were great fun and the new DVD collection is no doubt worth the price for aficionados of the series.
Looking back at the many ups and downs of the British Film Industry one
clear period stands out as very firmly 'up'. This was during the reign of
the 'Carry On' team at their peak. For a five year period (1963 - 1968)
team churned out a series of slickly produced genre parodies which, though
often substituting authentic locations for a beach in Wales or a field in
East Anglia, managed to upstage the Hollywood productions they were
their noses at.
'Carry On Cleo' (1964) exemplifies this period and stands out as (some
argue) one of the greatest British films ever made.
The usual cast is out in force, with only a couple of notable absences
Barbara Windsor), all delivering at the top of their form, and clearly
revelling in the luxury of using the sets and props left over from
Mankiewicz's megaproduction of 'Cleopatra' (1963).
Sid James was never more ruggedly appealing than when suited in the white
miniskirt and golden breast plate of Marc Anthony, he also gets to blast
the immortal line "BLIMUS!!". Scriptwriting doesn't get any sharper, from
start to finish Talbot Rothwell's script glitters.
In the part of Cleopatra, Amanda Barrie gives us a good view of her
as she floats gracefully in asses milk. Whilst batting her extended
eyelashes she asks "Do'st thou like what thou see'st?". Well I certainly
The film is a pleasure to watch, there is never a dull moment as the plot
flips furiously between the plight of the cowardly Hengist Pod and heroic
Horsa escaping roman enslavement (Kenneth Connor & Jim Dale buckling a
swash together), and the drama of Julius Caesar's last days of power
(Kenneth Williams camping it up to the nines as usual). The story threads
intertwine and build to a hilarious climactic chase scene involving a
Shakespearian identity swap and a hulking Egyptian guard by the name of
If contemporary British film-makers would return to taking the mickey
instead of sitting passively in Hollywood's thrall, we might see a few
gems like this in the future.
Julius Cesar returns from his three-year campaign across Europe with his
captured slaves to find a less than warm welcome awaits him. His wife is
mad at him, the senate is plotting against him and a war between Cleopatra
and a rival for control of Egypt. While Cesar and Mark Anthony try to
control of Rome, they also must side with the beautiful
Although it is true that Carry On films are an acquired taste and that some of the jokes will be lost to those not familiar with British gags and terms, it is still the case that the Carry On's can be very funny if you get them and they hit the mark. Cleo is yet another example of what made the Carry On movies such a success; this is one of the better ones - plenty of good gags and fine actors to deliver them. The plot is good enough to hold the gags together but not good in the traditional sense - basically the gags are what drive the film rather than the plot!
And what good laughs there are to be had! The humour is innuendo based but is not as out and out crude as the series often could be. Even the slightly smutty jokes are pretty clever and witty; regardless of where you are from, there is enough laughs here to be worth watching. I won't start quoting lines simply because there are so many good ones - the second half is a little weaker than the first, but it is all still good stuff!
The cast are great despite missing a few of the regulars. The film's stand out performances are easily Williams and James. James is his usual self, regardless of historical setting but Williams is simply superb and makes his lines work better due to his delivery. He has most of the screen time and he makes the film. Barrie is not that good looking but she makes a good Cleopatra and she has a good body on her. Williams and Dale don't have that much to do but are still OK despite feeling supplemental to the action. Hawtrey is hilarious and Sims is OK.
Overall this is as good an example of the Carry On series as any other. It is smutty without being overly crude, with a good mix of sex jokes and witty puns and such. The plot holds the film together without being intrusive on the gags. A fine example of a series that could be as good as it could bad - here it is good.
As an American interested in British humor of all periods, I was fascinated
to finally see some examples of the `Carry On' comedies, a beloved
institution in England. The recent DVD releases are region 2 PAL format
only, so they continue to be for the British market exclusively.
I believe these films were considered racy in their time, but are quaint indeed by today's standard. `Cheeky' is the best word I can think of to characterize them. I was familiar with Kenneth Williams and Sid James as voices on a couple of old `Round the Horn' radio shows I'd heard. They didn't look quite as I'd pictured them. The cast is colorful and likable, but the pace and form of the humor seem to me very English, or maybe more accurately, not very American. Sometimes the jokes make references that simply wouldn't register with Americans, and I can see why it was probably decided long ago that they wouldn't travel well. Still, if you are something of an Anglophile, and have seen and appreciated a great deal of British movies and television, as I have, you're likely to get the jokes.
One of the characters in `Carry On Cleo' is named `Hengist Pod,' and his wife's name is `Sena' hence, `Sena Pod,' hardy-har! Now, I must have come across a hundred or more references to `senapod' in British comedies, and as an American, this was a great mystery to me. As far as I have been able to determine from countless sniggering references, a senapod was (is?) some sort of strong laxative. Ah, you saucy English and your beloved poo-poo humor!
Anyway, this is probably a good introduction to the `Carry On' films for the uninitiated, as it is colorfully filmed with lavish sets and costumes left over from the Burton/Taylor production of `Cleopatra.' In addition, as much of it is set in ancient Rome, it may not seem as provincially English to non-Britons as some of the others in the series. I was delighted to finally make the acquaintance of the `Carry On' films, and look forward to seeing more.
Carry on Cleo stands head and shoulders above the rest of this variable
comic series, combining a genuinely witty script, excellent performances
good production values (thanks to the use of sets from the previous years
it seems that the scriptwriter and cast,let off the normal constraints of the series, were determined to excel.
In addition to the oft-quoted Kenneth Williams line ('Infamy, Infamy, they've all got it in for me!'), there are other gems; 'Ptolemy?' , 'I AM TELLING YOU!!!', and to Gloria, the British girl who falls ill aboard ship - 'Oh well, Sic Transit Gloria!'.
If you only see one Carry On film, make sure that this is it.
This has to be the best of the earlier (Anglo) carry ons. There are many great moments to this film, with all the team except Hattie Jaques and Barbera Windsor. As usual it is Williams who shines through (as Caeser), but all the team put in top performances, notably Connor (as Hengis). With such lines as "Infamy, infamy , Oh they've all got it in for-me" I say it again Williams is the STAR. We start off in England during a typical summer (RAIN), where Hengis and Horsa are going about their lives (making square wheels and thus inventing the Window Frame) They are captured by the Romans and taken to Rome to be sold as slaves. Eventually Hengis ends up as Caeser's body guard who swaps roles with Caeser to meet Cleopatra. There is simply FUN FUN and more FUN to be had throughout.
A pretty "unofficial" tale of the intrigues between Cleopatra, Julius
and Marcus Antonius.
Hit-or-miss but frequently hilarious spoof of Joseph L. Mankiewicz' infamous super-epic "Cleopatra", that generates far more amusement than the original. The pace is hectic, the writing unusually clever and most of the actors caught somewhere near their best. Some dull spots, but the whole enterprise remains cheerful and sprightly.
An excellent script helps make this film one of the best Carry On films. Full of memorable moments, and acted by a superbly casted group of actors.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was a lavish, colourful production that even on the supposed small
budgets the 'Carry Ons' were deemed to have had, looks spellbindingly
good, let alone the humour. (So many have made reference to the actual
sets/costumes used from 20th Century Fox's 'Cleopatra').
The 'Romanised' names which reflect today's names (Slave-traders known as 'Marcus and Spencius' etc) add to the usual absurdity, but absurdity is never done better by this lost era of comedies - you never can help laughing when the team deliver the lines better than anyone could today (Check out Tommy Cooper and Stan Laurel).
The time is coupled with the Roman occupation of Britain and Caesar's Rome. Yes, we know that Britain wasn't properly occupied and the population weren't stone age like portrayed in the film but who cares?! Julius Caesar, played by Ken Williams, Anthony by Sid James and the rest of the ample cast, including Charlie Hawtrey still wearing his specs in ancient Rome, make it fine nonetheless.
Jim Dale does well on one of his few outings as he usually does "Oh, you silly Pod!" With reference to Hengist Pod (Kenneth Connor), the square-wheel making, accidental hero who's promoted to Caesar's head bodyguard.
Naturally it follows through to both Caesar's and Anthony's dalliance with the beautiful Amanda Barrie as Cleopatra.
The gags as always, are simple but effective (I'm not going to do the Kenny Williams one!). On John Pertwee as the soothsayer calling: "Isis, Isis". - "They're lovely!" comes the reply from Ken Connor! And when Cleo mentions to Anthony that one bite from the snake is fatal, he bites the snake, spits it out, disgusted with the taste and says: "You're not kidding!" Definitely along with 'Khyber' the best of the lot!
I do love the Carry Ons,this is one of my favourites especially as it has Amanda Barrie playing Cleo,didn't she have such big eyes?i particularly like the way she portrays Cleo as a sort of hippie Groovy Chic,rather than a big boobed no personality bimbo as was portrayed in the Up Pompai series with Frankie Howard,which was about the same era.Warren Mitchell is particularly funny as Marcus & Spencius it makes you wonder why he was never part of the team,this is the only time you see him in a carry on and his time on set is memorable.For me the funniest thing about this film now is how skinny most of the stars legs are,whose are the skinniest would you say?Charles Hawtrys,Jim Dales,Kenneth Williams,Cleos even Sid James had thin legs,i think they should have all gone down the gym first.But then the Carry on team were always different,they could always raise a laugh in one way or another.
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