What's A Carry On?

29 December 1998
10.35pm, ITV
52 mins

Producers: John Bishop & Chris Skinner
Director: John Highlander
A British Film Corporation production for Carlton

(available on the Carry On Emmannuelle Special Edition DVD)

Well, it was a close call. After a year of supposed "celebrations" on TV of the Carry On series, we finally had something worthy of title just 3 days before the year was out. And what a celebration.

I have been looking forward to an affectionate tribute to our favourite films, ever since we were promised one just before the Channel 4 Carry On weekend. We all knew that Sid drank and that Kenny was gay - we didn't need to be told again. We all knew that the Carry Ons were sexist and that they demeaned women, homosexuals, black people and next door's cat. The thing is, we knew that all along - we didn't need to be told it all over again. We certainly didn't need to be told it as if it was news. What none of the documentaries presented earlier in the year told us was that they were all these things but that they didn't really mean it. The eternal charm of the Carry On films is that they hinted at offensiveness but never really presented it on a platter. If you found the Carry Ons offensive then that probably meant you had those kind of leanings all the time. I believe the saying goes "give a man enough rope".

And then, just as the anniversary year's almost over, we get "What's A Carry On?" A revelation. Finally, we can see that there are actually some people out there who actually like these films. Not only that, but they love them. And why? Because, behind the headlines, behind the sensationalism, Peter, Gerald and the rest of the gang made 31 wonderful films. No talk of drinking, womanising, homosexuality - instead we get what we were promised all along; a tribute to a series of films that have made every self-respecting English man and woman proud to be English. Nowhere else in the world can you find films quite like these (believe me, I've tried).

In a series of interviews that is unsurpassed and with clips that finally offer even the most dyed in the wool fan something new, we finally get an insight into these masterpieces of British cinema from the people who really count; those who worked on them. Peter Rogers, Joan Sims, Jim Dale and Norman Hudis, to name but a few. I have been telling people for years that all the Carry On celebs aren't dead - finally I have proof. Not only that, but the team behind this documentary even managed to unearth a few people who would confess to actually liking the films. If you've seen all the other programmes on the subject this year, you'd be forgiven for thinking there weren't any.