Most people agree that “Carry on Abroad,” the twenty-forth film in the Carry On series is the last good one. I would have to disagree. Abroad is one of my favorites, but the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh films (Dick and Behind, respectively) are gems in my opinion. The latter especially. I can’t disagree, however that by the time Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas started work on the twenty-eighth film, the series really was in the gutter. It isn’t entirely their fault either, but that being said they are responsible for many of England’s problems. To start with, comedy had changed at this point. The series was quite edgy to begin with, but by now the sex comedy was becoming more popular. The big money makers at the time were the “Confessions Of…” series. According to England’s special features Rogers and Thomas even went to see a “Confessions” film before production on the film began to get a feel for what the public wanted as far as comedy went. This edgier style did not suit the Carry On’s.
Perhaps Thomas and Rogers knew that the Carry On’s were in need for a change, as England features very few of the Carry On regulars. Kenneth Connor, Jack Douglas, Peter Butterworth, and Joan Sims are the only real regulars, and even then Sims and Butterworth are greatly underused. Kenneth Connor takes the lead, and gives the stand out performance of the film, average script aside. Windsor Davies plays the standard over the top drill sergeant roll. He’s never really bad, and you can tell Davies is having a lot of fun. He gives a solid performance in it, and works well with Kenneth Connor. Jack Douglas plays up his twitching part after toning it down in Behind. Well, he does it a lot early on in the film, and then it just sort of phases out. Which I guess is good since I’m not a huge fan of Douglas’s twitching part, but it does make the script come across as very jumbled. In the latter half he seems to be used as a ladder, helping the girls into the loft before the Captain comes for inspection. This use of his height leads me to believe that maybe Douglas got some parts of the script originally meant for Bernard Bresslaw, who was attached to England during preproduction, but did not appear in it for unclear reasons. Peter Butterworth has some good bits, it’s just a shame he didn’t get a larger role. The rest of the cast is okay, but largely forgettable.
The film does have a couple of good moments, such as when Ken Connor’s replacement clothes fall off while he’s on duty, and (as corny as it is) the Fokker line. But the script lacks the wit and charm of Talbot Rothwell era. There are a lot of parts were it feels like Dave Pursall and Jack Seddon are trying to hard to get laughs, or even fit Carry On England in with the new style of comedy.
In conclusion, “Carry on England,” is defiantly a sign that the Carry On’s were starting to overstay their welcome. The film bombed at the box office, and some theaters even removed it after three days due to it’s inability to make money. You can tell that the crew are trying to seamlessly blend the style of older Carry On’s with the new Confessions… series, and it is almost saddening to see this film fail as much as it did. Carry on England is definitely one of the weakest entries in the Carry On series.