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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Carry On Matron (1972)



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After the financial disappointment of Carry On At Your Convenience, the series returned to the reliably popular hospital setting. This episode is my favorite of the 1970s Carry On films. Like most of the other highlights in the series, it works not so much because it does anything very different so much as it just does it better.

The cast, with one exception, is perfectly cast. Kenneth Connor was born to play the nervous expectant father; Kenneth Williams gets a lot of mileage out of playing a hypochrondriac; Joan Sims is wonderful as an opportunistic patient. Sidney James plays a gangster interested in stealing contraceptive pills from the maternity hospital. As with the previous film, it is nice to see him doing a great job with a more subdued character than his usual cockney lecher. Guest star Kenneth Cope pays James' son, who disguises himself as a female nurse and winds up with Barbara Windsor as a roommate, which of course leads to all sorts of hilariously compromising situations.

But this is Hattie Jacques' film, through and through. Jacques had already refined her matron character earlier in the series, and yet somehow she is even more wonderful here. Her character this time out is as austere as ever, but this time her personality is tempered with motherly compassion. It allows her to be as funny as she ever was, while also being arguably the most likable character in the whole series. This sets up a madcap romantic story arc with Kenneth Williams, which involves a lot of people hiding in furniture. Jacques and Williams had been paired similarly in prior films, to great comic effect, but their work is funniest here, where despite the madness, we care about what happens.

As I said, there is a weak link in the cast. It's Terry Scott, who plays a painfully unfunny womanizing doctor. Scott, who was great in several other Carry On roles, never should have been given a part like this, as he simply didn't have the charm that Sidney James had to make the role funny instead of creepy. Even James wore the routine out long before he was done with it. Unfortunately, this was Terry Scott's last Carry On film, so he went out on an undeserved sour note.

Scott's swan song was another regular's debut: Jack Douglas shows up in a small role as an expectant father. Douglas was famous for his "twitching" routine, where his whole body would convulse at sudden random moments and possibly wreak havoc in the process. It's a love-it-or-hate-it sort of schtick. I like it; I think it adds some color to the later episodes of the series, which sorely needed it. But as for Carry On Matron, Douglas' involvement was unnecessary -- welcome, yes, but unnecessary -- as the film is fresh and funny anyhow.

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