Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Carry On Jack

(UK, 1963)

This is the second Carry On movie I have seen, out of thirty-one. I might watch one or two others if they appear on TMC, but I don’t think they’re good enough to actively seek them out. This one was better than the other one, Carry On Cabby, but is still a long way from being a comedy classic.

I admit that I loved the very first scene, though. It was brilliant. They re-created a famous painting, freeze-frame. The painting is The Death of Nelson, by Arthur William Devis. It depicts the great hero of Trafalgar lying swathed in white sheets in the dark below decks of his flagship Victory. He is surrounded by his officers and men. One lantern casts deep shadows around the scene. Nelson is bare to the waist, seeming to glow, looking somehow Christ-like. This film replicates that scene, then comes to life. It is very well done. According to accounts, Nelson said “Kiss me, Hardy,” to one of his officers shortly before he died. And this is where the movie takes it nicely off-kilter. Hardy is clearly nonplussed, not anxious to be seen as a nancy-boy. Eventually he is prevailed on to kiss Nelson.

After that, it’s pretty standard stuff. Albert Poop-Decker is the worst midshipman in His Majesty’s Navy. He is cold-cocked by the lovely Sally (Juliet Mills in an early role). She needs his uniform to impersonate an officer so she can sail to Spain and find the love of her life. Then he is Shanghaied into the Navy as an ordinary seaman. Naturally no one, including Poop-Decker, notices that Sally is female unless she takes her hat off and shakes out her hair. (Oh, well, Shakespeare got away with it, and so did Preston Sturges.) Their ship is under the command of the least competent and most cowardly captain in any man’s navy, Captain Fearless. Sally and Albert fall in love … that’s all you need. Predictable, to say the least. I will give the writer and actors points for making the amputation of the captain’s leg into a fairly funny sequence. Not an easy task.