Saturday, January 7, 2023

CARRY ON COLLECTION 1 (1958-1960) (Via Vision Entertainment Blu-ray Review)

CARRY ON COLLECTION 1 (1958-1960) 

Label: Via Vision Entertainment 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 

The Carry On film franchise was Britain’s longest-running comedy film series, it's one I've heard about for decades, often from Brit directors I respect whom have spoken of it in high regards, but I've never actually sat down to watch any of them until now, and now that I have seen four of them I must say that I was quite enamored with the series this far. This four disc set collects the first four film in the series, all of them are charmingly formulaic and lighthearted, each film featuring a mostly returning group of British actors playing different but often similar characters set in a different occupation. On this set we have a post-war Brit military comedy, a group of nurses and patients at a hospital, a group of teachers versus students, and a police station staffed by newly hired constables during a flu epidemic. Here in the U.S. there's nothing quite like the Carry On series, no film franchise here has gone on for over 30 films. The closets thing to it might be a horror franchise but these films are interesting in that they're not interconnected by a theme other than their occupational comedies with a core cast of returning actor. 

Duration: 84 Minutes 
Director:  Gerald Thomas
Cast: William Hartnell, Bob Monkhouse, Shirley Eaton, Eric Barker, Dora Bryan, Bill Owen, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Williams, Terence Longdon, Norman Rossington, Hattie Jacques, Gerald Campion

In Carry On Sergeant retiring Sergeant Grimshawe (William Hartnell, the original Dr. Who) laments that he has never had a Star Squad, and before he retires he would like to go out on top with a top-ranking squad. To that point he makes a bet with Sergeant O'Brien (Terry Scott, Murder Most Foul), betting that he can pull it off, and impress is superior Captain Potts (Eric Barker, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines). Unfortunately for him the new recruits come by way of newlywed Charlie (Bob Monkhouse, Brit broadcast TV personality), hypochondriac Horace Strong (Kenneth Connor), cad Miles Heywood (Terence Longdon, The Martian Chronicles), rock 'n' roller Andy Galloway (Gerald Campion, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), delicate dandy Peter Golightly (Charles Hawtrey, The Terrornauts) and the snobby upper crust James Bailey (Kenneth Williams, The Hound of the Baskervilles). They're a meandering bunch of nitwits seemingly incapable of being molded into proper soldiers by their military service training. The best stuff here for me is the performance from Kenneth Connor as the hypochondriac who daily reports to medical office Captain Clark (Hattie Jacques, The Magic Christian) with a myriad of imagined illness, and who catches the eye of the canteen-shop girl Norah (Dora Bryan, Hands of the Ripper) much to his chagrin. Another fun throughline is newlywed Charlie played by Monkhouse, who is called up for service immediately following his wedding, not even getting to enjoy consummating his relationship with his comely wife  Mary (Shirley Eaton, Goldfinger). His wife is so upset by the turn of events she sneaks onto the base and presents herself as a cook to be close to him. Eventually the new recruits find out about Grimshawe's desire to go out on top and attempt to get it together enough to win the Star Squad.  

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary by Dora Bryan, Terence Longdon and Shirley Eaton on Carry On Sergeant moderated by author Robert Ross
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- Image Galleries (20 min) 

Duration: 86 Minutes 
Director: Gerald Thomas 
Cast: Shirley Eaton, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, Terence Longdon, Bill Owen, Leslie Phillips, Joan Sims, Susan Stephen, Kenneth Williams, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Susan Beaumont, Norman Rossington, Jill Ireland, Ann Firbank, Irene Handl, Susan Shaw, Michael Medwin

In the sequel Carry On Nurse we find Shirley Eaton, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, and Kenneth Williams returning, establishing themselves as film series regulars for years to come. In this entry we have an ornery group of patients by way of injured box boxer Bernie Bishop (Kenneth Connor), an avid radio listener Mr Hinton (Charles Hawtrey) who always has headphones on, the bunion afflicted Jack Bell (Leslie Phillips), the bookish Oliver Reckitt (Kenneth Williams),  degenerate gambler Colonel (Wilfrid Hyde-White, Chamber of Horrors), and a journalist with appendicitis Ted York (Terence Longdon). Together their madcap antics make life difficult for the hospital staff by way of Sister (Joan Hickson, The BBC's Miss Marple Series), Nurse Denton (Shirley Eaton), and student nurses Nightingale (Rosalind Knight) and Dawson (Joan Sims), whom are at the mercy of their strict superior Matron (Hattie Jacques) who regularly makes the rounds on their ward. There's also a love interest Rickitt by way of Jill Ireland (Hard Times), a visiting sister of a friend. This is another charming entry, when the lady nursing staff are not contending with the amorous advances of the patients they must stop the accidentally drugged but purposefully drunk patients from performing a operation on one of their own, making this a classic patients are taking over the hospital ward farce. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary by Shirley Eaton and Terence Longdon on Carry On Nurse moderated by author Robert Ross
- Theatrical Trailer  (3 min) 
- Image Gallery

Duration: 86 Minutes 
Director: Gerald Thomas 
Cast: Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Leslie Phillips, Joan Sims, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Rosalind Knight, Ted Ray

Carry On Teacher features a high school's Headmaster William Wakefield (comedian Ted Ray, Escape By Night) applying for a post at a new school, but to get the promotion he must ace a visit by a Ministry of Education Inspector Miss Wheeler (Rosalind Knight) and a noted child psychiatrist Alistair Grigg (Leslie Phillips). However, when a senior student (Richard O'Sullivan, Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrowoverhears that the school's beloved headmaster plans to leave he and his school chums set out to sabotage the headmaster's chances of advancement, making sure that their classroom behaviors are unbecoming, and putting the teachers and their headmaster in a terrible light during the inspection. Series regulars return here to play the teaching staff, we have science teacher Mr. Adams (Kenneth Connor), English teacher Mr. Milton (Kenneth Williams), music teacher Mr. Bean (Charles Hawtrey), gym teacher Ms. Allcock (Joan Sims), Ms. Short (Hattie Jacques) the math teacher. A fun entry to be sure, we have the students spiking the teachers lounge coffee with booze, student pranks galore with plenty of slapstick humor and sight gags. This also seems a bit edgier (for the time) with some double-entendres and situational comedy that foreshadows what I am told is the series eventual turn towards more risqué direction in later years.

 Special Features:
- Audio Commentary by Larry Dann and Richard O’Sullivan on Carry On Teacher moderated by author Robert Ross
- Theatrical Trailer 
- Image Gallery

Duration: 86 Minutes 
Director: Gerald Thomas 
Cast: Leslie Phillips, Shirley Eaton, Eric Barker, Sidney James, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques

The final film on this set is Carry On Constable, wherein a suburban police station is beset by a flu epidemic which causes a staffing shortage. To keep the streets safe three fresh police constables are recruited straight from constable-training are sent to a local constabulary as temporary replacements. But their Inspector Sergeant Wilkins (Sid James, Quatermass 2) soon discovers the new recruits are pretty a hapless bunch and shenanigans ensue. Returning series regulars, all of whom I have come to adore, include Kenneth Williams as a copper with penchant for criminal psychology PC Timothy Benson, Leslie Philips as socialite playboy turned PC Tom Potter, and Kenneth Connor as the extremely superstitious PC Charles Constable. Senior officers at the precinct include include Joan Sims as WPC Gloria Passworthy and the always pleasing Hattie Jacques as Sergeant Laura Moon. We also have Charles Hawtrey as Special Constable Timothy Gorse, tasked with walking an unruly police dog on the beat with disastrous consequences. This one plays out as the others as a series of comedic vignettes with the usual charming gags, but feeling a bit more sketch comedy than actual story at times, but I am so enamored with the returning cast and the lampooning humor that I couldn't care less about that. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary by Leslie Phillips on Carry On Constable moderated by author Robert Ross
- Theatrical Trailer  (3 min) 
- Image Gallery (2 min) 

Audio/Video: All four films make their worldwide Blu-ray debuts presented in 1080p HD widescreen (1.66:1). I did not come across any information about the sources and scans used for these HD presentation but the black and white imagery looks very pleasing throughout with generous fine detail and solid contrast throughout. A few blemishes pop-up but overall this is a solid HD debut for this series. Audio on all four films comes by way of uncompressed English LPCM 2.0 mono with optional English subtitles. The tracks are clean and well-balanced, no issues with hiss or distortion, and the score by  Bruce Montgomery (The Brides of Fu Manchu) sounds quite good in the mix. 

Each film gets an Audio Commentary with members of the cast moderated by Carry-On film historian/author Robert Ross. These are fun, charrty conversations with the aging cast who are quite dishy in their recollections of the making of the films. We also get a Theatrical Trailer and an Image Gallery with promotional stills, movie posters and press books for each of the four films. The 4-disc Blu-ray set arrives with each film housed in it's own keepcase with a 2-sided, non-reversible sleeve of artwork featuring the original illustrated movie posters housed inside a slipcase which has it's own unique artwork that looks quite attractive, lot of shelf appeal - love that retro style. It's a very handsomely 
packaged presentation for these first four film, and I am looking forward to future collections, I hope at some point we get all 31 entries in the iconic Brit-comedy film series, which after having at these first four I am quite happy to look forward to. 

Four films into the series I can say that I was won over by this long-running series, the light-weight and charming films are quite a treat, I've grown quite fond of the returning troupe of actors here who I was largely unfamiliar with previously. There's nothing too bawdy or cutting-edge here but they are tightly scripted comedies that are snappily acted, and actually quite funny in addition to be totally charming. This is a solid set of Brit comedies that I would recommend whole-heartedly to any fan of the fun stuff, there's a reason that these four films were the foundation upon which a 31-film franchise was built upon. 

Screenshots from the Via Vision Blu-rays: 


Carry On Constable (1960)