Ironically, the last Carry On Christmas special is the funniest out of the four, produced from 1969-1973. This one hasn't been shown on TV since it was first broadcast, but was released on video in the early 90s. If you can get a copy - get it!
It's quite surreal at first, watching a made for TV Carry On, after growing up with all those films, but the jokes and performances are on par with any film made during this period. Strangely, Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey's aren't missed from this show, as they were when they weren't in one of the films.
Carry On Christmas is a sort of sketch show, introduced by Sid James as Mr. Belcher, the local Dept. Store's Santa Clause. These little sketches are great fun, and the first with Barbara Windsor as the schoolgirl and Joan Sims as her mother 'Yes, well we had a French student living with us - she probably got it from him' - 'I wouldn't be at all surprised' are wonderful. Then Babs, who is clearly enjoying herself in this show, gives a great retort when Sid asks what her name is. 'Virginia, then Mum says we call her virgin for short, and then you say not for long, alright?'. Sid James' shocked reaction is priceless.
The first sketch is 'Carry On Caveman', and its a shame this idea was never made into a a full film (even though caveman scenes feature in Carry On Cleo). All the regulars are brilliant, and painfully shows what talented character actors they were - some of the best Britain has produced. Kenneth Connor's old man caveman is a great character - he's been asleep all year, and because of it, has nearly been buried twice. The sketch doesn't really come to life until Sid James turns up with Barbara Windsor as 'Crompet' (i.e. the Crumpet)!
The next sketch is an Elizabethan after dinner party, giving Jack Douglas his best name 'Crapper', and his best performance, when his twitching act doesn't come across as annoying. Barbara Windsor must be praised for her Fanny - Sid James' wife in this sketch. She gives it her all, and you can tell she isn't taking any of it seriously, which makes it so funny.
The last two sketches are a mixed bag. The first, a sort of 'Carry On Banging' is set in the trenches, 1917 (think Blackadder Goes Forth). Talbot Rothwell liked the situation so much, he was going to turn it into a full length Carry On after Carry On Dick (1974), but he retired after that picture, due to illness. This WW1 sketch is both hilariously funny, and touching. There's a segment where Sid James, Kenneth Connor, Bernard Bresslaw, Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor sing 'silent night', and it almost brings a tear to your eye, watching these old pro's singing a Christmas Carol with such pathos. The comedy soon returns with Sid James' Sgt. Ball 'we haven't got any Private's left, they were all cut off in the last attack', and Bernard Bresslaw's brilliantly named Captain Ffing-Burke!
The final sketch is a Carry On Robin Hood, with Kenneth Connor as Will Scarlet and the excellent Peter Butterworth as Friar Tuck. This sketch doesn't work as well as the others, and the pay-off is pretty average (Barbara gets her bosoms out again), but its funny and typical Carry On.
Watching this on Christmas Night is a must. You just don't get television like this any more. These actors and actress' were so talented, and brought so much energy to the screen. The whole atmosphere is fun, silly, naughty and above all, innocent. This is what Christmas TV should be - for the family. Forget about watching repeats of Fools and Horses, spend your Christmas with the Carry On team!
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