In 1966, the popular Carry On British comedy film series finally took a stab at the world of Hammer horror with Carry On Screaming! . Now, I’ve heard about the Carry On series for years but I’ve never had a chance to watch one. They never aired locally when I was growing up and even TCM didn’t really pay attention to them until recently. However, I know that my British and Australian horror and comedy fans are well aware of this series. The response is always mixed so I went into Carry On Screaming! with some excitement and a bit of trepidation.
First, it’s important to know a little about the Carry On series. It actually consists of 31 films made between 1957 and 1992. There were also three Christmas specials and a television series, not to mention several stage plays. Those facts alone surprised me and really made me wonder if I had been missing something huge. I enjoy British comedy, which is a prerequisite to even approaching any of these films or TV shows. I was also amazed to learn that these films actually had a regular cast of actors. What’s even more amazing is that most of the cast remained intact for the first 30 films, spanning 1958 – 1978. Only three actors from the series proper came back for the final film, Carry On Columbus, in 1992. Generally panned and often voted as the worst British film ever made, it’s safe to say that the Carry On series is indeed finally finished.
In 1966, at the height of Hammer horror supremacy in the theaters, we were given a full on parody with Carry On Screaming! Visually, the film nails it with enough mansions and forests surrounded by mad scientists and local constables to lure you in. We have the evil yet seductive Valeria (Fenella Fielding) working with her brother Dr. Orlando Watt (Kenneth Williams), who is in need of electrical charges to stay alive. Their monstrous servants the Oddbods are seeking victims while Detective Sergeant Bung (Harry H. Corbett) is in hot pursuit while also having to deal with a jealous and nagging wife (Joan Sims). Throw in a creepy butler, a Mr. Hyde character and a mummy, and you have all of the makings for a fun horror parody. And, of course, you have to have a man in drag for the proper British humor effect.
Because of its horror theme and homage to Hammer, Carry On Screaming! was one of the most popular films in the Carry On series. I sometimes bristle at beloved films or TV shows being the victim of parodies but in this case, I think they really did Hammer justice. I found the scenes and the running phone gag between Bung and his wife to be perfect comedic bridge sequences in the action and main storyline. The theme song started things off on a worry some note but I felt more at ease once I got my first glimpse of the monster on screen. It was only the second time the series attempted this and the last time until 1978, probably all the better.
It was fun to see Jon Pertwee in a small role as Doctor Fettle. Four years later, Pertwee would take a turn at another doctor in Doctor Who. As he is still my favorite Doctor to date, I always enjoy seeing him in other roles and here he is clearly mugging it up with crazy visual expressions. Well worth it for old school Doctor Who fans.
I’m definitely up for more Carry On films and I’m very open to suggestions from readers. You can find the Carry On Screaming! trailer on YouTube easy enough along with an interesting 1998 documentary on the series. Beyond that, do some searching online as some of the films are available on DVD. However, Carry On Screaming! has only been released once in the US and that was as part of a collection in 2002. Now long out-of-print, you’ll need to open your pocket book for that one. It was released in the UK but buyers beware as you will need a region free player for that version. Thankfully, TCM recently broadcast it so there is always a chance it could pop up again. However you acquire it, if you are a Hammer fan, I think you’ll enjoy it.