Carry On Jack
- Bernard Cribbins as Midshipman Albert Poop-Decker
- Juliet Mills as Sally
- Kenneth Williams as Captain Fearless
- Charles Hawtrey as Walter Sweetly
- Donald Houston as First Officer Howett
- Percy Herbert as Mr Angel
- Jim Dale as Carrier
The first hysterical historical from the Carry On team, Jack doesn’t exactly rank as one of its finest hours. Most of the main team are missing and the humour could be better in many stretches, but it’s not a complete disaster. It’s just a good Carry On rather than a great one.
After Nelson dies, the English realise they need more men fighting. With the shortage, one Albert Poop-Decker , who has spent eight and a half years training becomes a midshipman. It is what follows to Albert that puts the main plot into gear. He is to report to the frigate Venus as soon as possible. Yet after going to a local tavern to have a good time, he is knocked out by the beautiful Sally. She commandeers his clothes and identity to get aboard the Venus. Around the same time, Albert and a cess pit cleaner named Walter are press ganged by members of the ship and taken aboard in an ironic situation for Albert. The boat is captained by Captain Fearless, who is quite the opposite of what his name says and is very inept at his job. Despite his protests, Albert is reduced to seaman and also discovers Sally on board disguised as him. Meanwhile, bullying First Officer Howett and bosun Mr Angel, have become fed up with the Captain’s lack of expertise and with Howett wanting to experience some action, they begin plotting something devious against him. Rather than a mutiny, they stage it so it looks as if the boat has been invaded, causing Albert, Captain Fearless, Sally and Walter to flee. The quartet drift in the sea before reaching what they think is France, they actually wash up in Spain. As the two sets of crew continue on, Albert finds himself in hot water constantly as much misunderstanding, subterfuge and bad luck mark his eventful days of outrageous adventure at sea.
Gerald Thomas is once more behind the camera and though it’s far from his best work, he manages to make Carry On Jack whiz along. He also gets the staple of aping a particular film style right with the spoofing of cinematic swashbucklers and Napoleonic War stories. The main problem with Carry On Jack is that it just doesn’t quite have that snap that really makes a Carry On. Now the Carry On Movies are hardly what you’d call respected or high art and neither do they try to be, but there are certain things that the movies must have for them to be successful. First and most important, the humour has to be the biggest concern for entertaining the audience. That’s not to say that Jack doesn’t have its comedic moments, it just could have been funnier than it actually was. With most of the humour here, it just doesn’t hit the target as well as other entries in the eventful series of the comedies. Far more laughs could have been generated if some thought has gone into things. The innuendo is strong and often good, but the regression in humour fails to back it up. The lack of the main Carry On team are missing, which in turn plays into some of the flaws because we miss certain members of the usual gang. But it’s not all bad in Carry On Jack, there are some moments of treasure to glean. When the humour does hit, it can be rather good and make the journey quite fun. Most of it centres on the misadventures of Albert and how unlucky he is. If the humour had been more consistent, this could have benefited Jack and made it a great movie. The film is shot in colour and despite the movies being notoriously low budget, everything looks full of life and bathed in brightness. With the last movie, Carry On Cabby, being in black and white( and effectively so), seeing some colour here is welcome. The musical score is agreeable and cleverly pokes fun at the grand ones used in big historical epics.
Though most of the usual gang aren’t present, the cast still delivers. Bernard Cribbins is a good lead, playing the unlucky Albert with great skill and humour. He employs this look of bewilderment at his unfortunate circumstances that really is quite amusing. Juliet Mills, in her only Carry On outing, clearly has a lot of fun being sneaky, romantic and capable. Plus, she is so lovely in manner and appearance that it’s a shame she wasn’t in more Carry On Movies. Stalwarts Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey are here doing what they do best, especially in the case of Williams and his gift for comedy. Donald Houston, with a menacing bull-dog like approach, plays the angry and plotting First Officer extremely well and is supported admirably by Percy Herbert. We get an amusing cameo from Jim Dale at the beginning of the picture and he gets the best line of the entire movie.
So while it does possess some charm and fun factor, Carry On Jack just winds up being a less than memorable entry into the canon due to the lack of cast regulars and a dive in the humour.