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Carry On Abroad (1972)



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An assortment of strangers book the worst package vacation ever. That's all the premise Carry On Abroad needs to bring the series' humor to the world of travel -- which is a good place for it to be, given how crazy real-life travel can get. With a little exaggeration in, say, the conditions of the hotel (which isn't quite completely built yet), the humor can be outrageous and easy to relate to at the same time.

This episode might have the largest cast of characters of the series. It has 11 of the 13 regulars (tying Carry On Matron) and still finds room for new faces. The stand-out of the crowd, this time, is Peter Butterworth, the manager (and doorman, receptionist, porter, operator, valet, and waiter) of the hotel. Whereas most of the Carry On regulars had one or two stock character types that they tended to stick to, faltering when they strayed too far, Butterworth's great and very funny performance here is unique: completely unlike any of his other work in the series. Eerily, though, it foreshadows the character of Manuel in the great television show Fawlty Towers. Imagine if Manuel ran the hotel, and you wouldn't be far off from what happens here.

The film always works when Butterworth is on scene; otherwise, it's a mixed bag. I could have done without a lot of the slapstick. One recurring joke, for example, is how somebody keeps falling off a balcony and into some mud. Slapstick like this can work, but only if it's the character that's funny. Here, the focus is on the mechanics of falling off a balcony instead of the experience of it.

I could have also done without the entire climax, in which mass chaos substitutes for actual humor. But when the film works, it's brilliant. The telephone sequence, in which various guests get their lines crossed, is one of the funniest sequences in the whole Carry On series.

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