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Carry On Spying (1964)



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Carry On Spying began a series of movie parodies in the Carry On franchise. Made in 1964, it was one of the earliest James Bond parodies, which overran movie theaters as the decade wore on. More than that, though, it parodied noir classics like The Maltese Falcon and was shot in black and white to recapture the look of those films. It was a neat idea and a strange twist for the Carry On series, which up to that point hadn't done anything like that.

For many, Carry On Spying is a high point in the series. I'm not so sure. I liked it, but I can't look beyond some of its many faults. One is the climax, a relentlessly unfunny slapstick sequence where the characters run amok in an underground lair. Beyond that, Kenneth Williams is consistently irritating in the lead role. Williams is great elsewhere in the series, but a little of his snide persona goes a long way. Here, it's laid on as thick as it ever was, and as he plays the lead, there's seldom any relief from it. Williams made a better villain than hero, as his apoplectic gasping was much funnier than the credulous bumbling he exhibits here. Perhaps Jim Dale would have done a better job, but to be fair he's very good in his supporting role of a master spy who can handle the badguys with ease but is repeatedly foiled by his incompetent allies.

Still, the script is mostly clever, and it has a great female lead in Barbara Windsor. Her role here was a one-off, but she'd return to the series several episodes later as a regular and become one of the most famous of the Carry On crew. Her role in Carry On Spying was her best, however, if only for the wonderful scene where she is captured and tortured by the villains: Despite epitomizing the dumb blonde stereotype, somehow she still outsmarts them.

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