The seaside resort of Fircombe is on its uppers. Another miserable summer means the tourists are staying away in droves. Local counsellor, Sidney Fiddler (Sid James) comes up with the perfect way to generate interest in the town - a Miss Fircombe beauty pageant.
Sid volunteers the services of his girlfriend Connie Philpotts’ (Joan Sims) hotel as the perfect place for the bathing beauties to stay in preparation for the big day. Much to Connie’s dismay, none of them will be paying. Meanwhile, local counsellor Augusta Prodworthy (June Whitfield) is outraged to hear of the contest, which was agreed upon in her absence. Rousing her fellow feminists, Augusta protests to the Mayor, Frederick Bumble (Kenneth Connor) but he refuses to cancel the pageant.
Unable to halt the contest via official channels, Prodworthy and the local feminists stage a dirty campaign.. When an insider informs them that one of the contestants is, in reality, a man (Bernard Bresslaw), it looks like she has all the ammunition she needs. Or she would, if it wasn’t a carefully staged publicity campaign by Fiddler and his co-conspirators.
A Peter Rogers Production Directed by Gerald Thomas
Screenplay: Talbot Rothwell
Music: Eric Rogers
Certificate A/PG 88 minutes
"You might think that a beauty contest was the perfect place for the Carry On team to discover new heights of hilarity and new depths of depravity - well you'd be right!
Sidney Fiddler brings a beauty contest to a quiet seaside resort. His problems start with two curvaceous Hells Angels, Miss Easy Rider and Miss Dawn Brakes. There's Major Bumble, Bernard Bresslaw as Britain's first drag beauty queen and last but not least Mrs Angela Prodworthy who is fighting on behalf of Women's Lib.
Girls' is the silver anniversary of Carry On - the 25th in the series and the jokes are bigger and bouncier than ever!"
If one word sums up Carry On Girls, it’s desperation. Sid’s desperate to get his end away and Connie is desperate for him to start taking their relationship more seriously. Meanwhile, the Bumbles live in quiet desperation, with an unbearable tension simmering just below the surface of their drab lives. Prodworthy and her cronies are just desperate for a good seeing to, or so we’re led to believe. In short, everyone’s living a miserable life until Sid tries to inject a bit of fun, a bit of a spark back into the town. It is one-dimensional sexist stuff but it’s done with such style, such a sense of “we’re only in it to make you laugh” that the end result is two parts melodrama, three parts Benny Hill.
There’s plenty of fun to be had, albeit with a more adult tone than in the earlier films. The Carry Ons aren’t bordering on sex comedy territory yet, but they’re definitely giving it the glad eye. But Carry On Girls is an inconsistent film and Talbot Rothwell’s script contains a few clunkers. The Cecil Gaybody character is horribly written and there are too many instances of double-entendre being reduced to the level of a one-track-mind.
The star performance is Kenneth Connor as Mayor Bumble. While I personally never found Connor particularly entertaining as the romantic lead in earlier films, I adore his later portrayals of endlessly frustrated, world-weary characters. He battles the forces of feminism with a barely concealed yet entirely impotent rage, every facet of his life a crushing disappointment.
Augusta Prodworthy and her harpies are less convincing, but given the nature of the Carry Ons and attitudes towards sexual equality in popular culture at the time the feminists were never going to be anything more than lesbians in men’s clothing. Despite the best efforts of June Whitfield and co, they’re contemptible upstarts and it’s hard to sympathise with their cause.
However, in a Carry On whose very premise is out and out sexism there is a delicate balance to tread and, by today’s standards, the team do a pretty decent job. Of course, the sheer insanity of anyone finding Bernard Bresslaw remotely attractive as a woman (down boy!) helps enormously. The Grand Guignol that underlines Carry On humour is rarely more obvious.