Dir: Gerald Thomas, 1974
By 1974, the Carry On films were up against some stiff competition. Public attitudes and tastes had changed. Cinemas were showing forgettable bawdy sex comedies such as Adventures Of A Plumber’s Mate and The Four Dimensions Of Greta. To stay ahead, usual scribe Talbot Rothwell, director Gerald Thomas and producer Peter Rogers, had to up their game.
The past few entries in the series, had become smutty rather than saucy. Ribald humour had made way for a more blatant crudity. Instead of being discreet, boobs were becoming more commonplace and the actors came across as leches and dirty old men, rather than cheeky and playful.
Legendary highwayman, Richard “Dick” Turpin (Sid James), robs passengers on horse and carriages while posing a rector in the nearby town.
A constabulary, The Bow Street Runners, is set up to catch crime on the roads, with their number one focus being Turpin.
Led by Captain Desmond Fancey (Kenneth Williams) and Sergeant Jock Strapp (Jack Douglas), the bumbling and inept pair, do everything they can to arrest the notorious and feared “Big Dick” Turpin.
A famous person (in history or otherwise) who’s name is Dick, was an obvious target for the Pinewood posse. The surprising thing, is that it took as long as it did to be thought of.
Carry On Dick has its moments of hilarity, but it also has a grubby, sleazy feel to it. Thomas seems to have forgotten about what matters most; the jokes. Instead, he attempts to get as much skin on screen as he can, while trying to keep it just the right side of an ‘A’ certificate.
He isn’t entirely successful in this endeavour, as a few scenes are definitely boundary pushing, even by today’s standards. A bit with Barbara Windsor trying to ring the church bells, is a particularly uncomfortable. As Busty Babs is pulling in the ropes, her bodice, inadvertently, begins to loosen, revealing her breasts as Sid James looks on, perversely.
In earlier days, Thomas would have made the joke work without resorting to close ups and lingering shots of Windsor’s chest.
Scriptwriter Rothwell, does show flashes (no pun intended) of what made the Carry On series so popular and accessible. The double entendres and misunderstandings, serve the film well, with a notable dialogue between James and Williams about Turpin having a mole on his “chopper” being riotous.
The underlying quality of the series, was the, relatively innocent, postcard humour. But that’s gone, here, replaced with, what feels like, a parody of historical softcore erotic movies that was so prevalent in the seventies, like Histoire d’O (The Story Of O) and La Bete.
Carry On Dick was the last true film in the much loved franchise. It marked the final appearances of Sid James, Hattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor. As well as losing some of its favourite stars, Rothwell didn’t write any more entries, passing the torch on a to younger, more vulgar selection of writers.
However, there are some classic lines in this and it is fairly enjoyable. It’s just a new era for the films, but is one that doesn’t suit them.
Definitely worth watching.