Happy 59th Anniversary to the Carry Ons

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Mel O'Drama, Aug 1, 2017.

  1. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Champian

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    Yes, Carry On Henry is typical of the particularly superb job the Carry On Team did with period stuff.

    Swami
     
  2. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Toilet and postcard humour was never more literal than in At Your Convenience.

    Watching last night, I couldn't help wondering if Cope's character here was originally intended for the other Kenny C. - Mr. Connor. Vic Spanner - a militant bolshie with a persecution complex who loses his trousers - is the kind of character Connor made a speciality of in his second phase Carry Ons.

    It's oddly satisfying to see Kenneth Cope and Geoffrey Hughes appearing in the same scenes and briefly exchanging dialogue, since their Corrie characters would have been cellmates at this point. I don't believe they appeared on the Street together at all, but their characters' histories were intertwined. Eddie Yeats was pretty much Jed Stone redux, right down to his relationship with Minnie Caldwell. So this feels special from that point of view.

    Richard O'Callaghan's naiveté was so convincing in Loving that I find it quite difficult to accept him as the slightly more switched on Lewis here. The writing seems to vacillate on whether or not I'm supposed to root for him. On the one hand, he's the "them" to the perceived audience's "us", his character having a sense of middle class entitlement (middle class being something of a threat in the Carry On world). On the other hand, as portrayed by O'Callaghan he's just too darned nice to not be likeable. I can't help feeling for poor Myrtle, being torn between Lewis or Spanner. Jacki Piper seems somewhat miscast as the daughter of Sid and Hattie and appears at times to be channelling Barbara Windsor in her characterisation.

    The scenes of domesticity with Sid and Hattie are very enjoyable, as is the sub plot of the budgie that can predict winning horses. Thinking about it, it's not often that regulars appear in living rooms eating dinner and reading papers, so it feels quite fresh here. Spotting the little changes to the decor with their increasing wealth passes the time nicely.

    Pretty much everything is where you'd expect it to be here. Bernard Bresslaw's continues his "Bernie the loveable lump" characterisation from previous films. Patsy Rowlands is feeling like a Carry On regular by this point, and a very welcome addition. Once again her character here is infatuated with Kenneth Williams's and the inevitable scene where he awakens in her bedroom with a hangover is well-played (her line "I know what a man looks like. And you're not all that different" is delivered perfectly).

    It's swings and roundabouts with the cast. Renée Houston has a beefed up role while Julian Holloway has around two lines. And Terry Scott's scenes were sadly cut out altogether.

    Eric Rogers' jaunty music keeps the energy flowing all the way through. As usual, many well-known traditional pieces are worked in: Oh Dear! What Can The Matter Be (complete with a brief sung lyric in the opening title: "Three old ladies locked in the lavatory"); She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain; The Quartermaster's Store. My least favourite aspect of some recent Carry Ons is the tendency to speed the occasional scene up, including the music. At Your Convenience has a prolonged example of this in the coach montage where they visit various pubs and disappear into the woods for a pee.

    One musical choice that's always felt a little strange to me is the beautifully romantic music that accompanies the borderline affair between Sid and Joan's characters. By the time they're saying goodnight after the coach trip, complete with violin soundtrack, it feels like these are the film's romantic leads. Never mind O'Callaghan/Piper or even Bernie and Margaret Nolan. The musical implication is that the flirting between this middle-aged couple - both married to other people - is what we need to root for. The characters can't possibly consummate their affair without harming other on-screen characters and alienating a good number of the audience. It's one thing for a Carry On to suggest an sexual flirtation in a saucy, shallow way, and quite another for it to give it the kind of musical accompaniment that's rarely been heard since the innocent Norman Hudis era. The message is a strange one and the whole scenario played with a tad too much reality for it to be funny. That said, it's a beautiful piece of music.

    Car spotting is part of the fun here. Bill Maynard's gorgeous red Capri Mk I and Lewis's stunning Jaguar Mk X.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The Morris Marina Coupé that Sid buys after winning some money seems appropriate. Like the series itself, it's cheap, not really made to last, enjoyed by the masses and very much representative of a British industry at that time (the workers at British Leyland probably outdid Vic in the number of strikes they called). History has shown the Marina to be a pretty poor car in the long term (although the blatant bias and influence of Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear series have vilified the car far more than it actually warrants). But there's something quite beloved about it. And it's telling that it's shown here to be something of an aspirational car. I must say that I actually love that Bedoin paintwork. It may not have been rustproof, but early Seventies BL had some stunning colours. The sight of Sid James looking lovingly at the Morris Marina as a symbol of his success and status somehow seems to encapsulate everything that's great about Britain in 1971, and everything that wasn't.

    [​IMG]

     
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  3. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Champian

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    Carry On At Your Convenience is a strange one for me, it wouldn't rank amongst my favourites, although I can't really say why. Perhaps the humour is a little more overt than in some of the other offerings.

    Swami
     
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  4. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    A wet Saturday meant time for a Rogers/Thomas double-bill yesterday, with Carry On Matron and the big-screen version of Bless This House.

    Having never watched all this material chronologically before, I'm finding it interesting to see the flow of cast from one film to another, even on the non-Carry On titled work. Bless This House featured a number of players from Matron including Sid James (of course); Terry Scott; Patsy Rowlands; Bill Maynard and Wendy Richard. It also featured several who would go on to the next couple of Carry On films: James; Rowlands; Peter Butterworth; June Whitfield; Sally Geeson; Carol Hawkins; Robin Asquith; Hugh Futcher; Marianne Stone; Billy Cornelius; Michael Nightingale. Geeson and Hawkins would make their Carry On debut just after appearing together in Bless This House. Peter Butterworth would return to his first full role (roles, even) in Abroad after a series of cameos in the films since Up The Khyber. This was facilitated by him having a major part in Bless This House. Even more extreme, Bless This House was Whitfield's first work with Rogers and Thomas since 1959's Carry On Nurse. This quickly gave her a re-entry to the series proper in the next couple of Carry Ons. Sadly, Bless This House would prove to be the final Rogers/Thomas film for Terry Scott, making Matron his last Carry On.

    Rather than a full-on medical Carry On, Matron at times feels more like The Big Job with a medical backdrop. Apart from a couple of sketches in which Terry Scott's Dr Prodd acts out very old jokes with regular supporting players Amelia Bayntum and Margaret Nolan and a typically daft moment in which Joan Sims is almost put off eating her sausage on overhearing a new mother's concern about her baby's "thing", most of the medical gags come from Kenneth Williams as hypochondriac Sir Bernard Cutting. And he gives it his all. Every moment is filled with exaggerated facial expressions and larger than live body movements. By the time he's trying to prove himself with Matron and discovering Hawtrey's wonderfully named Dr F. A. Goode in her wardrobe it's all in there: the Snide voice; the Cockney; the snob; the look to camera; the catchphrases; the indignant outrage. It could have been terrible, but I found it to be the funniest sequence in the entire film, helped greatly by Hattie Jacques grounding the whole piece as Matron, horrified at being used this way. The lines are terrible, and are played as such, with a wink to the audience that feels very much like watching a live theatre performance. So when the film's most groan-worthy line comes, the audience is in on the joke. And it's a corker: "I'm a simple woman with simple tastes and I want to be wooed", Matron breathily tells the persistent Sir Bernard as she fights him off. To which he retorts "Oh, you can be as wooed as you like with me."

    Sid James plays the criminal type he was perhaps best known for outside the series abetted by Bernard Bresslaw, Kenneth Cope and Bill Maynard. Watching last night, I found myself recasting Maynard with Peter Butterworth. Not that I needed to, since Maynard is perfectly fine here and it's good to see him in the thick of things in this, his final Carry On. Like Terry Scott, Bless This House would be his Rogers/Thomas curtain call, and I can't help being curious about why.

    Matron marks the end for a third main player: Jacki Piper (I hadn't realised how much this film marks the end of an era in terms of cast changes). After three fairly major roles in Up The Jungle, Loving and At Your Convenience, her role here seems quite low impact. It's certainly the smallest of her four appearances. But size isn't everything - not even in a Carry On. Like the efficient, nameless Sister that she plays, her presence is quite reassuring. In many ways she feels like the spirit of Carry On Nurse. Like most of the nurses in the earlier film, her character neatly avoids romantic entanglements. With a smile, she gently rolls her eyes at any innuendo she overhears and simply gets on with her job. She brings a reality to things.

    If she's the spirit of Nurse, then perhaps Barbara Windsor's Nurse Susan Ball could be said to evoke the saucier elements of Doctor. As expected, she strips down to her bra and panties at least once, and there's a romantic plot with Kenneth Cope spooned in. In truth, though, this is quite a subdued role for Windsor, too. Again, while it's not her most memorable appearance, Windsor makes the best of it and imbues Susan with an endearing sweetness. She's very kind to her roommate even when she thinks he's a her.

    Rather than Windsor, the obligatory brief female nudity comes from a random nurse in the bath as several people climb in through her window (a throwback to a similar scene in Doctor. For all I know it might have been the same nurse). But for an early Seventies Carry On, this is a surprisingly wholesome film. Even the innuendo feels very much toned down compared with the most recent half a dozen films.

    The two Carry On girls, Piper and Windsor, and are kept apart for pretty much the entire film (I'm fairly sure the only scene they share is the wedding in the final scene, and even then there's not so much as a glance between them. It's easy to forget they even appeared in a film together. I can only guess it's because they almost occupy two completely different Carry On worlds and for them to interact would have caused a rift in the space/time continuum. So it probably worked out for the best.

    Derek Francis is someone I've underestimated until this viewing. His angry farmers in Camping and Henry; outspoken Sir Henry in Doctor and permanently grumpy Arthur in this film are worlds apart from the reserved Brother Martin in his next appearance.


    Bless This House is even more wholesome than Matron. It's interesting to watch this looking at the similarities to the Carry Ons rather than the differences to the TV series. It does feel very much like a big screen sitcom outing (maybe I'm imagining it, but many of them seem to involve new neighbours, fast food joints and weddings), and a pretty good one, too. The now familiar pairing of Terry and June helps. It's fun to see Peter Butterworth share a scene with his real-life spouse Janet Brown. And it's always good to see Butterworth's screen wife, Patsy Rowlands. Butterworth's avuncular-but-cheeky persona here feels very much like I imagine the man himself to be. He and Asquith are the two major bits of big screen recasting here which I suppose could be due to availability of the originals, but also perhaps for commercial reasons (though Asquith would be pre-Confessions here, so maybe he wasn't here for the name). I seem to recall something in the Peter Rogers autobiography about him being unhappy with Robin Stewart about something at this point. I'll have to take a peek later.

    Interaction between neighbours is always fun, and this has the best of both worlds with the close-knit relationship between The Abbots and the Lewises (and the departing Hobbses) and the escalating feud between the Abbots and the Bainses, fuelled by their offspring becoming romantically involved.

    There's no rocket science here. It simply, efficiently goes through the motions and the result is a nice little early Seventies time capsule.
     
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  5. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Champian

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    Bill Maynard did appear later in Carry On Dick as Bodkin, the innkeeper.

    Swami
     
  6. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Oops. So he did.
     
  7. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Champian

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    He also was filmed in Carry On Abroad but his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, he was the boss of the travel company.

    Swami
     
  8. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    There's been a whole lot of Carrying On this weekend. I've watched Abroad; Stuffing; Girls; Christmas (1973); Dick and the audio commentaries for Camping and Again Doctor.

    With Charles Hawtrey's exit following abroad, there are some major casting misfires in terms of trying to replace him. The camp contingent in Stuffing, Girls and the final Christmas came from, respectively, Jack Douglas, Jimmy Logan and Bernard Bresslaw. There's a sense that all three of them are playing roles written specifically for Hawtrey's style and they fail epically simply because they're not played by Hawtrey. Instead, we have these fairly rugged heterosexual actors trying to play stereotypically camp limp wristed gay men. Perhaps the school of thought was that the unexpectedness of it could make it amusing in the same way that Bresslaw in drag is. But they've completely missed the point. Hawtrey rarely went OTT in this way. He didn't need to. The comedy didn't come from his gayness. Nor even from his theatrical mannerisms. It came from the writing juxtaposing those: marrying him off to Joan Sims (or even having him as her father); charging into battle; serving in the forces; having him as the sole male servicing an army of voluptuous amazons. The same could be said for Kenneth Williams or Frankie Howerd. Instead, Logan lisps and makes bitchy remarks about décor; Bresslaw hisses and lusts after Julian Holloway and the less said about Jack Douglas the better.

    The (almost) explicitly gay couple in Abroad suffers similarly. Rothwell doesn't know what to do with them, besides throwaway comments about ankle bracelets and eventually having David Kernan "saved" by running off with a woman. There's no progress here, which wouldn't be so bad if it was funny. Sadly, it's just not. Likewise, the Women's Lib movement gets spotlit in Girls. It's natural that films which have come under fire for objectifying women would try to fire a couple of shells back, but it's not clear exactly what they're trying to say. Lack of gender stereotype is once again the easy target. The feminists are written as extreme butch, bra burning ball busters. And then there are the "good" women like Valerie Leon. She laughs off finding Bernard Bresslaw rolling round on a bed with Barbara Windsor and gets a makeover to become every heterosexual male's fantasy. And she knows her place, quickly acquiescing to her partner's demand for her to cover her belly button in public. There's something a little ironic - symbolic even - about Leon literally not having a voice in this film - she's dubbed by the respectable June Whitfield, ensuring her newfound vamp status doesn't stop her from being accessible and homely.

    Hattie finally had top billing in Carry On Stuffing, and she was the best thing in it. Something I noticed this time round was how similar her Good Fairy was to Frankie Howerd's Fairy Godmother in the original Carry On Christmas. Both rolled their eyes or pulled faces at the puns. And both broke character to complain. Above all, both were funny. The final Christmas had some moments too. I particularly enjoyed the contemporary linking section in which some of the cast - especially Connor and Butterworth - seemed at times very close to how I imagine their real selves to be.

    Dick is a very contradictory film. The regulars look as tired and old as the writing. But at the same time it mostly works. The abundance of information about the Sid/Barbara affair that's come out in more recent years has put a bit of a damper on Dick and Girls for me (though, I suppose has also added a layer of morbid curiosity).
     
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  9. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Champian

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    Carry On Dick definitely marks the end of an era, with Sid's final film performance. And like Don't Lose Your Head, he is superb with the dual-roled performance.

    Good to see Jack Douglas finally getting a bigger billing.

    Swami
     
  10. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes. He's great in it.


    With the nature of the Carry Ons being based so much around the personae of its player it's natural there will be some that appeal more than others, and Jack's style has never really clicked with me. The Alf Ippititimus character is ok for a cameo in Matron or the bookends in Abroad, but anything more gets a bit wearing for me.

    I have previously quite enjoyed his pairing with Windsor Davies in Behind, so maybe he'll win me over there.
     
  11. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Champian

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    Behind was ok in parts, but Carry On England was where the series really fell down.

    Swami
     
  12. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    If memory serves, this re-watch of Carry On Laughing is only my second time. The first (and last) was when the Special Edition DVDs first came out well over a decade ago. It's taken this long to face it again.

    Three episodes in and it's better than I remember, greatly helped by having very low expectations going in and having sat through four Christmas specials in the past few weeks. It's the first time I've watched the series in chronological placement between Dick and Behind, so perhaps that's helping too.

    The nicest surprise so far has been a little location work. All I remember of Laughing is a great deal of studio work leaving one feeling rather claustrophobic. But The Baron Outlook had some exteriors filmed outside a castle and in a woodland. I'd thought the latter was probably oft-used Carry On staple Black Park, which surrounds Pinewood. But being an ATV production there's every likelihood it was filmed at Elstree rather than Pinewood.

    All the team trudge fearlessly on, but with a second-rate script and visibly lower budget the series lacks the sparkle of even the mid-Seventies films. It doesn't help that time is catching up with the franchise in general. Poor Sid James looks quite worn out after chasing Barbara Windsor round the table a couple of times.

    That's not to say the series isn't worth a peek to those interested in the films. There are enough regulars to hold the interest. The series is certainly of historic interest. Diane Langton has made her Carry On debut in the first episode, her imposing cleavage threatening to take over several scenes. There's almost a sense of the dubious sex object mantle being passed from Windsor to Langton, something that will probably make me view Diane's upcoming role in England in a different light. The next episode features Hattie and Sid's final Carry On performances, so it will be fascinating from that perspective if nothing else.
     
  13. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Carry On Laughing is over. Truthfully, it was more a case of the completist in me wanting to get through them in sequence before moving on to the next film. Now I've done that I can't say I'll miss it terribly. There were a few enjoyable little moments. Peter Butterworth was a hoot as Merlin ad libbing all over the place. Sid and Hattie's final Carry On was one of the better of the series with some nice lines. But thirteen episodes of the series was ample. Sheree Hewson and Johnny Briggs both appeared, preceding their roles in Behind and England respectively .

    Speaking of Behind, I watched that this evening and rather enjoyed it. Kenneth Williams held it together nicely. Elke Sommer's top billing is a little bizarre, but she was likeable enough. The broken English/lost in translation bit is old, but between these two it turned out to be one of the more enjoyable aspects. Interesting to see Liz Fraser back, this time as the hausfrau type rather than the fantasy. She had too little screen-time, sadly. Joan Sims fighting off Kenneth Connor and rekindling romance with Peter Butterworth was enjoyable enough - especially as she'd spent much of the first two thirds of the film being quite unpleasant.

    Speaking of unpleasant, Carol Hawkins and Sheree Hewson played two of the most unlikeable characters yet in the series - a couple of shrill, whiny young women out for what they can get from men. Hewson's appeal has long been lost on me, which didn't help. It struck me while watching her in Laughing that Hawkins - in many ways - could have been a reasonable successor to Jacki Piper. She just seemed badly used here. I liked her in the film of Bless This House and Abroad. Really, the film suffered from too many characters who were badly developed. Adrienne Posta and Ian Lavender's couple were casualties of that. I'd have a job to remember their characters' names and I've watched it many times. More, too, could have been done with Larry Dann's return to the series.
     
  14. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I wonder if England or Emmanuelle is someone's favourite Carry On. Surely so. It takes all sorts to make a world, after all.

    Personally, I vacillate on which is least enjoyable. They're both terrible in different ways. England almost has an actual plot but is filled with unfunny lines and unlikeable characters. Emmanuelle has familiar character actors interacting wonderfully in a vehicle that seems designed to alienate both them and the audience.

    Last night, I found myself favouring England of the two, simply because I can imagine it looked good on paper. The story seems inspired by some earlier Carry Ons. The earliest, in fact. The armed forces setting is reminiscent of Sergeant, while the series of pranks seems to echo those in Teacher. With Loving or Camping's preoccupation with copulation thrown in. Thing is, though, Sergeant was character driven, Loving and Camping were filled with familiar face, and the pranksters in Teacher were schoolchildren motivated by the thought of losing their beloved headteacher. England has a bunch of annoying newcomers behaving like children.

    The suffering they inflict with relish on Kenneth Connor's character is most unpleasant to watch. It goes way beyond schadenfreude and crosses the line into malice. And this is the first we've seen of most of them. Having followed the series for this long, it's like watching a bunch of arrogant young hooligans gate crash a most enjoyable party and vomit everywhere.

    Kenneth Williams suffers similar indignities in Emmanuelle, but somehow it seems to matter less. Perhaps because it feels so far removed from what a Carry On is. The one thing the film does is to have the more established cast members together as the below stairs staff, so there are at least a few scenes that come close to capturing the right tone. Indeed, there's something quite fitting about Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims, Peter Butterworth and even Jack Douglas acting as a Greek chorus to the goings on elsewhere in the film while not knowing the half of it.

    The characters' blasé attitude towards sex and nudity are a sign that the Carry On party is coming to an end. Emmanuelle is naked, and nobody cares. Kenneth Williams gets his arse out again, but it all meant nothing without Joan Hickson's drunken incredulity. No longer is this the world of the saucy postcard. Now it's a pictorial edition of Gray's Anatomy Of The Human Body.

    Anyway - I made it through. And I still have a number of audio commentaries to revisit. From Henry onwards, in fact.
     
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  15. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Champian

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    I must admit both England and Emmanuelle are poor, perhaps the only redeeming features in England are strong performances from Kenneth Connor and Windsor Davies.

    Swami
     
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  16. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Peter Butterworth made England for me. It's only a small role, but his facial expressions and fake laugh were great.
     
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  17. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Champian

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    Yes, Peter Butterworth excelled no matter how significant his roles were.

    Swami
     
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  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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  19. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Great timing, James. I ordered the signed audiobook version from Fenella's online shop the other day.

    I was torn between the spoken word and written versions but decided with Fenella it's all about the voice. Interestingly, it seems the audiobook version came first in this case.
     
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  20. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The audio commentary for Abroad is one of my favourites. Having a number of participants who are up for a giggle makes for a nice experience. John Clive and David Kernan are like cheeky schoolboys and gleefully spend about five minutes extolling the virtues of Kenneth Williams's "legendary" cock.

    Patsy Rowlands, Jack Douglas and June Whitfield's commentary for Girls, too, is enjoyable. Whitfield and Rowlands in particular seem to have worked on so many projects that it just flowed from one story to the next. They're always good value for money.
     
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