The package deal holiday, that splendid American invention that has become almost a way of life for ordinary people everywhere, was bound sooner or later to have its more comical aspects exploited by the comedy film--makers.
Hollywood has already had a go at it in "If it's Tuesday This Must be Belgium", the title showing exactly how an American tour of Europe was being conducted. Now comes the "old firm" of Peter Rogers and director Gerald Thomas to poke a bit of good, ribald fun at this annual ritual which involves over four million Britons who prefer the Costa Brava to Cleethorpes or the Dolomites to Devon, in Carry On Aboard, the 24th of the series.
About the only thing we expect to run smoothly in a Carry On are the credit titles at the beginning of the film, so we are anticipating trouble for somebody as soon as we see a coachload of holidaymakers in charge of courier Kenneth Williams, Their destination is the Palace Hotel on the paradise island of Elsbels. The tourists soon discover that there is little about he hotel that is palatial, nor much that reminds them of paradise in the island.
Among the hotel's shortcomings are the depressing facts that it is only half-finished, while the hotel staff numbers just three people. Peter Butterworth, for example, does duty as manager/doorman/receptionist/porter/telephonist/valet/head waiter. The only job he doesn't do is that of cook, which he leaves to his wife, Hattie Jacques. Their son, Ray Brooks, does as little as possible.
Still there are compensations, thinks Sid James when he surprises Barbara Windsor in the shower. The voluptuous sight promptly turns Sid on, though he's just as quickly turned off when his irate wife Joan Sims catches up with him.
June Whitfield is another lady who is not amused when she finds Charles Hawtrey happily soaking himself in her bath.
Elsewhere in the hotel, pandemonium reigns. Electrical points explode alarmingly; taps don't work and when they are finally persuaded to function it is sand that comes out instead of water; the restaurant is invaded by clouds of mosquitoes; the wine is definitely "off" and soon is the food, only more so. There's no need to book early morning calls, for the pneumatic drills and cement mixers which go into action at daybreak see to it that everyone is up bright and early. Then, when the tarpaulin which has served as a roof has been pulled back, it affords the workmen an excellent view of the hotel guests in their beds.
All this is not, of course, half or even a quarter of the story. There's the excursion to Elsbels Market Place; what happens at the local striptease club; how the party gets jailed and how they get out; there's the hotel party; the lacing of the punch with a powerful local love elixir with its truly astonishing results; and many, many more gags to make this Rank film every bit as funny as the best of its 23 predecessors.
The Carry On stars themselves have given examples of having their holidays spoiled by incidents similar to those in the film. Says Joan Sims: "I was being driven round the bend by the noise connected with the digging of an underpass near my London flat, so as I had a few days off from filming, I phoned a quiet hotel I knew in Paris and caught the first available plane. No sooner had I taken a bath, poured myself a drink and settled down with a good book, than the whole place started shaking with a deafening racket. Workmen had arrived to dig up the road right outside my window!"
Sid James also tells of a Paris holiday that ended (for him) in disaster. "My wife Val and I were making our first ever visit to Paris and on the plane we stocked up with our maximum allowance of booze and tobacco. Guarding them with my life throughout the trip and through the customs, we took a taxi from the terminal to the hotel. After a freshen-up I settled down for a big Scotch and a fine cigar - only to discover I'd left the lot in the taxi. I almost wept!".
Bernard Bresslaw (Brother Bernard of the Order of St Cecilia in the film) had trouble on his honeymoon which was spent in Rome: "While I got things sorted out at the hotel my wife decided to get some sun. I warned her about getting burned, only to be met by the retort, "I don't burn easily". Needless to say, when she came in she was like a lobster and eventually I had to call a doctor. After treating her, what d'you think he told me? That we'd have to have single beds and it would be about a week before I could go near her - and we were on our honeymoon!
Finally, Carry On producer Peter Rogers tells us that disaster strikes him every time he goes on holiday - when he gets the bill!