The “Movies that haven’t aged well” Blogathon: The Carry On Films (1958-1978)

The Carry… What? For those of you fortunate enough to live outside of the UK and therefore do not have to face the terror of the TV channel that is ITV3 (which is not to be confused with ITV4, the channel responsible for broadcasting back-to-back episodes of Poirot and is there for okay in my book) and ITV3’s insistence on re-running the Carry On films every Sunday and Bank Holiday.

You see… The Carry On Films are a British comedy series (also the biggest film series in British history, still bigger than James Bond, even now) which were produced between 1958-1978. They were churned out like a factory product every year, sometimes twice a year, with the same producers and the same cast. They have also, as you have already guessed, really not aged well.

Moviemovieblogblog is running a blogathon in which participants will write about films that haven’t aged well, so I’m going to list 5 reasons why the series hasn’t stood the test of time like so many other British comedies like the Monty Python series or those classic comedies of Ealing Studios.

I also feel its relevant to let you know that I wrote my 12,000 word dissertation on The Carry On series. Yup, of all the films, of all the topics, I wrote about the representation of women and female sexuality in the Carry On series. The fact that this was my title should allude to the kind of series they were. If I were to pick any US films to relate them to, The Police Academy movies are the closest I’ve stumbled on. I don’t not like the series, but I don’t love it, I’m very in-between. I can say that I am fascinated by the films even after studying them for a year, and I am pleased that I can share my wisdom with you.

1. Some of the films are outrageously sexist. And, because some of them are sexist, looking back they all seem a bit sexist.

They basically placed actress Hattie Jacques as a desperate past-it woman who through herself onto queer characters, with ‘superior’ men calling her a battleaxe and other younger, prettier woman taking president over her and denying Hattie her self-worth.

2. The jokes were hilarious then. They can fall a bit flat now.

Um, is this funny?

3. And the subject matter just isn’t transferable to present-day England.

4. The nudity was shocking then, but after Basic Instinct (1992) and then The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), it’s all a bit tame now.

For those not in ‘the know’, this is the most famous scene in the Carry On film’s history. Yeah.

5. Cringe. Cringe. All the cringe.

I told myself I would never watch this scene again. And now I just did. And it makes me sad.

Have you ever watched any of the Carry On films? 

Want MORE?

I hosted a Podcast for the LAMB cast (Large Association of Movie Blogs) on Carry On Screaming (1966) with the awesome Jay Cluitt and Kristen Lopez!

La Dolce Vita (1960): March Blind Spot

Closely Watched Trains (1966): July Blind Spot

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The Movies That Haven't Ages Well Blogathon: The Carry On Films | almostginger.com

  1. What in the holy hell??? Never heard of this, but it sounds like this would’ve been right up my alley as an immature teenager. In other words, I have never even been to the UK and I was a huge Benny Hill fan as a kid. Haven’t seen it in ages so I really have no idea how they hold up. Probably worse than this I imagine. Great post.

  2. Yup, the longest running British film series in history! A total of 30 films and I’ve watched them ALL. All of the sexual innuendos in the entire world in one film series. I genuinely don’t know how they got away with it, they certainly wouldn’t now.

  3. I’ve heard about these movies for years but have never seen any of them, and based on your blog entry, it doesn’t seem as though I’ve missed much. Thanks for your entertaining critique and for contributing to my blogathon!

    • Thank you I had a great time! 🙂 it’s probably worth seeing one or two but I wouldn’t waste your life watching all 30 haha

  4. Your post makes me sad. Such a great film series.

    Please tell me more about the shocking nudity though. I recall a cinema scene in Camping set at a nudist site. Possibly a glimpse of Babs if you’re quick on the pause button in Dick and a few topless ladies in England (both towards the end of the series when they were trying to compete with the more risque Confessions films). Also some male bottoms in Constable; if this counts as nudity.

    Is that a lot of nudity in 31 films? Was this really considered shocking at the time? I can understand to some extent if there were controversies with the incessant sexual innuendo, but the nudity? I just don’t think there was enough to shock anyone.

    Not convinced by the sexism either. You pick out the amazing Hattie. She had a very strong role in Cabby. And it’s not like the men all had strong self assured characters in these films!

    Final thought. If a film depicts sexism, does it make the film sexist? Or is it just a film made with the intention to entertain. A film where the male characters are as often the butt of the jokes as the females when these “sexist” scenes play out.

    I don’t watch American History X and think it’s a racist film or that it’s full of racism and therefore should not be watched. It’s also not some sort of sad reflection of the times it was made in. To me it’s a film with racist characters in it. Do these characters reflect a large proportion of the populations views and beliefs? I’d say not.

    Just a thought.

    • I actually studied these films for my third year dissertation on the representation of women and female sexuality. I argue in my dissertation that whilst some of the films (at the beginning) were at the forefront of representing a positive view of women, the later films counter this, and that is the view that many people have.
      This is a very short blog post, and my examples chosen are what is available on YouTube. You don’t think the nudity is shocking in Carry On England? That film really does make me sad. It’s so needless. And incredibly sexist. Perhaps it’s because I’m looking back and did not watch the films on release, but I did read a lot of film reviews and articles from the time and its just nudity, nudity, nudity all the way through the films in the 1970s, that’s all there was to talk about. I’ll definitely say that perhaps ‘shocking’ was the wrong word to use, but people went nuts over that Carry On Camping scene and I would say it was shocking to an extent due to the huge reaction it got. Even now, when I mention what I did my dissertation on people know that Carry On Camping scene. I ask relatives who did watch the carry on films in their day and they say things like ‘oh yeah, you wouldn’t get away with that now, it was so bad’ as let’s not forget they were PG films. Yes, even Carry On England. Wow.
      Definite sexism there I’m afraid. At the beginning of the series, I do think that women were given pioneering roles for the time. Joan’s characters in particular were fantastic, she had such scope to explore her comedy legs and Hattie had strong roles.
      And then, of course, the women aged and enter Barbara Windsor. Joan became the bad tempered wife whilst Sid James (usually her husband/boyfriend) was allowed to still chase the younger models. I have countless other examples of how she became ‘past it’ and therefore came the shreaking shrew.
      Hattie Jacques had the worst beating of them all. Her characters were completely denied their sexuality because of her age and stature and her characters would laughably keep forcing themselves on Kenneth Williams’ characters who was clearly meant as a queer character. In Carry On Camping a trombone blows every time she takes a step down the stairs to accent her weight. I could genuinely go into so much detail. Even in Cabby as you mention, a film I also love, she goes out there and takes matters into her own hands… And is randomly pregnant at the end and thus forcing her back into her ‘woman’ role?
      The purpose of the blogathon was to pick out films that haven’t aged well, these films have not aged well. Whilst some were good (I mean, in a series of 30 films you’d hope some were good!) especially towards the start, their self-parodying towards the latter half gave them the notoriety the series as a whole has now. I hope this helps my point.

      • Thanks for the reply. This does help a bit although I still largely disagree I’m afraid.

        England was only shocking in the sense of how bad it was ! Those last few films are not indicative of the series as a whole. Yes there were a few b00bs on show. Yes that was unnecessary (they were just trying to keep up with other saucy 70’s films unfortunately) but still not convinced that makes it sexist. Joan Sims role in that film was surely empowering ? Seems so to me anyway. But I’m a man. It’s quite possible I just don’t get it !

        And THAT camping scene. Is anything actually on show? I don’t think it is.

        Anyhow, like you I could go into great detail and bring up many examples as I love these films and know them very well. So we may just have to agree to differ !
        Thanks for reading though.

        • We may have to agree to disagree 🙂 the bottom line with the sexist thing is that more often than not female characters were allowed a sexuality as long as they were young and attractive, men were allowed a sexuality no matter their age or what they looked like, that’s sexist. And I’m not saying that anything was on show, in regards to nudity I’m purely going off the reaction of audiences of that time from my research and it was notably shocking!

          • Hi, I’ll make this my last post. Promise ! I’m sure you have a weekend to get on with, so will keep this brief’ish.

            Re. sexism. I often see that it only goes one way (women the victims of sexism). The reverse of the women characters becoming bad tempered wives and battleaxes is the men becoming lecherous chauvinists. Am I allowed to be outraged that men are portrayed in this way ? Because I certainly don’t feel it is a fair reflection of my gender !

            As it happens, I don’t actually find it offensive. But my point is that I could do.

            As it happens, I like all these varied characters in these films. I laugh both AT and WITH all of them. Regardless of age, gender and looks (all of which you have mentioned).

            I would be genuinely interested to read your dissertation. Not sure if you could email it over (it’ll go no further. I’d just love to read it. I will no doubt learn something).

            Most people I speak to either like/love the films or are largely indifferent to them. Not sure i’ve met anyone with strong opinions on sexism within the films, so would love to read that angle on it. Like I say, I love the films and therefore v interested in hearing other people’s views.

            Have a great weekend.

            • It’s so hard to get your point across in the way you want to in a comments section of a blog isn’t it! You’re totally right, and the fact is I never even saw it that way about the men! I think it’s probably because I was watching the films and looking closely at the women so the men were secondary in that sense. Oooh I don’t know how ‘good’ it actually is but since I did okay and there is such scarce amount of literature on the films so I’m more than happy to email it over 🙂 I think you might find that we agree on a lot of the same points because 2 chapters are about how great the films are in representing women but it’s only the last chapter where I talk about the flaws. Thank you, same to you!

  5. Ahhh! Thank you for this post, I normally am a big fan of British comedy but these, well, they are not “are you being served?” I had no clue they were that popular, I guess quantity should be clue, just never heard of them til they turned up in droves on Netflix, but they are definitely a product of their era. congrats on completing your dissertation! That is a huge accomplishment! I know a comment log is not the best place for a long question but did your opinion of the films change during the course of research?

    -summer

    • Thank you for reading! 🙂 Oh my goodness yeah the Carry On films were so popular in their day. And if you are a fan of British comedy I definitely wouldn’t skip over them, if you go for a few films that were released earlier in the series you’re more likely to appreciate what was so good about them than the later ones. Erm, I guess it did. The main thing to grasp is that this is a series of 30 films and its impossible to say one conclusive thing about the whole series, I mainly realised that the films were not created equal and the difference in quality between some of them is staggering.

  6. I would love to read your dissertation, I always watched the films as a kid without questioning them and now as an adult I still enjoy them but also like to think about their themes

    • Oh, it’s really not that much of an exciting read! Essentially, my views in terms of the representations of women are that the earlier films give women roles they’d never had in films before: funny, witty, working women with minds of their own and as the series continued and the existing actresses “got older” thus began the spinster and old hag roles and were no longer as forward thinking as they once were :). Those are my views, anyway!