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Carry On Doctor (1967)



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Carry On Doctor, a deliberate attempt to recreate the commercial success of Carry On Nurse, succeeds and then some. This is the best of the four medically-themed Carry Ons and roughly the second best in the series as a whole. It's not that it accomplishes anything many of the others don't, merely that it accomplishes it so well.

As with many episodes of the series, the leading role belongs to a guest star. This time it's Frankie Howerd, whose anarchic style and great reactions make him as great a comic foil for madness as Kenneth Williams is. Williams, incidentally, turns in one of his best performances as the excessively straight-laced Dr. Tinkle. Try making the exaggerated facial expressions he does in his first scene and not cracking up at yourself. But what makes Williams so funny is not that he does it, but that he does it so naturally.

This film also marks Barbara Windsor's return. Previously, she appeared in Carry On Spying and now begins her run as a series regular. In her later roles, her character was a little too in on the joke; here, her obliviousness is what makes her such fun.

The highlight for me, however, is Jim Dale, who as the romantic lead might easily have been the bland and boring member of the Carry On crew. He is anything but: his boyish naivety and overly sincere earnestness make it hilarious when his ambitions are frustrated at every turn, whether through bizarre misunderstandings or simply by his own clumsiness. Counterbalancing his romantic storyline is that of Bernard Bresslaw, whose near-parody of Dale is even more earnest and well-meaning. Bresslaw spends most of the movie trying to figure out how to romance one of the patients in the women's ward without getting caught by the stern matron, who is obviously played by Hattie Jacques. It's these sorts of simple ideas with great comedic potential that make Carry On Doctor so good.

I could go on, but the point is that everything just works. This is the movie Talbot Rothwell had been trying to write ever since he started, and the stars are at the top of their game. I do miss the diverse mix of styles that made his run of movie parodies so fresh (Carry On Spying through Carry On Screaming), but in a way the return to the present day is liberating. If you've never seen a Carry On film before and want to test the waters, this would be a good place to do it.

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