Bertram Oliphant West (also known as Bo West) wants to clear his unjustly smeared reputation. He joins the Foreign Legion, with Simpson his manservant in tow. But the fort they get posted to is full of eccentric legionnaires, and there is trouble brewing with the locals too. Unbeknown to Bo, his lady love has followed him in disguise... Written by
Simon N. McIntosh-Smith <Simon.N.Smith@cs.cf.ac.uk>
A group of legionnaires are seen approaching the camera. Their shadows are to their left on the right side of the screen. They are next seen with their backs to the camera. Their shadows are now to their right on the right side of the screen. See more »
When his reputation is compromised during a routine game of cricket, an English nobleman (Jim Dale) joins the French Foreign Legion and gets mixed up with a lecherous sergeant (Phil Silvers) and an Arab uprising.
The first of two entries not to use "Carry On" in its title due to political fall-out from a change of distributor, this lumpy concoction features Silvers in a role originally intended for Sid James (producers had even considered Woody Allen, hoping an American star would help them crack the elusive US market), and while Silvers holds his own amongst an impressive ensemble cast, he seems out of place in a movie steeped in British traditions and sensibilities. Like everyone else, however, he's constantly upstaged by Kenneth Williams as the nostril-flaring German commandant at the Saharan garrison where Dale is stationed with his faithful valet (Peter Butterworth), though by this stage in the "Carry On" series, Williams' dominance of proceedings had become pretty much par for the course. Talbot Rothwell's script is long on plot and short on gags, though a couple of fruity nuggets hit the target (when heroine Angela Douglas proposes venturing onto the streets of a Middle Eastern village after dark, dismissing the possibility of being kidnapped and ravished among the sand dunes by a rampant tribesman, Williams reminds her of an old Arab proverb: "There's many a good fiddle played on an old dune!"). The screenplay also pokes fun at upper-class British twittery (Dale is quite superb as the clueless aristo, completely at odds with his surroundings), which minimises any offence caused by some broad Arab stereotypes, and Bernard Bresslaw hams it up as a villainous bedouin whose only allegiance is to the mythical 'Mustafa Leek'! For some strange reason, the magnificent Joan Sims is wasted as the owner of a small cafe where much of the film's action unfolds.
Filmed in the wilds of Camber Sands, Sussex (!), the movie's low budget production values are bolstered by an ultra-professional production team (cinematographer Alan Hume would later work on a number of British-lensed blockbusters, including the Bond movies), but while Gerald Thomas' direction is as efficient as ever, the film is amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny (one gets the impression Rothwell's heart wasn't in it). For the first and only time in "Carry On" history, Silvers gets top billing over all the other actors (producer Peter Rogers always claimed the "Carry On" title was bigger than any of its stars), which must have galled some of the regular players. In fact, the principals were all wary of Silvers' presence, and Williams was particularly vocal in his opposition to the US stars' use of written prompts, causing tension on the set. To his credit, once Silvers became aware of this problem, he abandoned the prompts and memorised his dialogue, earning him the respect of his co-stars, including Williams. Though fun in its own way, the movie pales in comparison with the following "Carry On" entry, DON'T LOSE YOUR HEAD (1967), an uproarious parody of the French Revolution.
NB. Though often billed as 'Carry On Follow That Camel' and 'Carry On Don't Lose Your Head', neither film has ever been screened under those titles.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?