Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Kenneth Williams, Sidney James, Barbara Windsor, Hattie Jacques
For over thirty years, British movie screens lit up regularly to the leering, naughty bits antics of the "Carry On" film series. Between 1958 and 1992, there were thirty-one "Carry On" movies. Each one sported the same formula: spoof a cinematic genre, keep a consistent cast of actors and regurgitate the same double entendres and dirty old men jokes within the context of the genre being lampooned. After watching just a few scenes, I came to realize that the old saw about Americans not understanding British humor is not a cliché at all. For better or worse, Anchor Bay has truly taken the scholarly course by releasing thirteen of the entries in their formidable "Carry On Collection" DVD set.
Spread out over 7 discs, the "Carry On Collection" features such Anglo-Amalgamated (that’s the production company’s name) gems as "Carry on Cleo," "Carry on Nurse," "Carry On Spying," "Carry On Screaming," and "Carry On Sergeant." In the vein of "That’s Entertainment," there is even a compilation title, "That’s Carry On" where regulars Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor introduce, in true "Carry On" fashion, the "best of the best" moments. Most of the regular "Carry On" cast – Williams, Windsor, Sidney James, Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Connor – are not well known in the U.S., but some of the supporting characters are familiar to American audiences including Shirley Eaton from "Goldfinger" (she appears in "Carry On Nurse"), Wilfred Hyde White from "My Fair Lady" (also in "Nurse"), Broadway actor Jim Dale (one of the later regulars in the series) and a pre-"Nanny and the Professor" Juliet Mills ("Carry on Jack"). What audiences wanted to see were the regular crew members: James as the working class bloke, Connor as the put-upon mousy guy, Joan Sims as the improper proper (teacher, nurse, constable, you name it), Windsor as the buxom object and Williams as the fey troublemaker. Whether in ancient Egypt, the 18th century high seas, the old American west or a haunted house, the "Carry On" films gave audiences a chance to laugh at our preoccupation with sex…even if the jokes weren’t all that funny.
Anchor Bay formatted the omnibus with a double feature on each disc and "That’s Carry On" as a separate entry. (The films are available separately, but "That’s Carry On" can only be obtained with the collection.) Each film is presented in their original 1.66:1 aspect ratio with <$16x9,anamorphic> enhancement.
With so many titles in the collection, the technical quality is similarly varied. Most of the films look quite good, given their age and archival disposition. The source prints vary from extra clean looking to better than average with some blemishes. The color titles (only four) have those deep saturated hues from the period, making for candy-coated viewing on my monitor. The remaining black and white entries exhibit good gray scale and detail delineation. Contrast levels are spot-on, always yielding a crisp picture.
All the entries contain the original mono soundtrack. The audio is uniformly excellent, with only a minimum of hiss and hardly any crackle or distortion in the more shrill moments. Decoded through the center channel, dialogue always sounded natural and clear, remarkable given the age of the soundtracks.
Other than the inclusion of "That’s Carry On," the only supplement for each title is a theatrical trailer. Presented in <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> with mono sound, the trailers look just as good as the feature presentations.
While "Carry On" isn’t exactly my cup of Earl Gray, kudos to Anchor Bay for giving the films such tender loving care and detail. So, if you have 20 hours to fritter away, plow into the "Carry On" Collection and watch it grow smaller and smaller. I mean the stack of movies left to watch.