“Mon blooming dieu!” The 13th film by the Carry On team presented a colourful, rip-roaring send-up of the French Revolution, with attractive costumes and elegant staging.
In Paris in 1789, French aristos are having their heads chopped off for the glory of the country.
Watching the executions with malevolent glee are Citizen Camembert (Kenneth Williams) the villainous head of the French Secret Service, and his deputy Citizen Bidet (Peter Butterworth) – both pawns of the dreaded Robespierre (Peter Gilmore).
The executions arouse the interest of a couple of foppish dandies from the stiff-upper-lipped land of gallantry and fun – England.
Displeased with the situation, the mincing English lords Sir Rodney Ffing (Sid James) – which is pronounced “effing” naturally – and Lord Darcy (Jim Dale) hatch a plan to travel to France and intercede.
Utilising a number of unlikely disguises – among them are those of an old woman, an insurance broker and the dreaded Robespierre himself – Sir Rodney (now known as ‘The Black Fingernail’ with a calling card of two fingers rampant, one fingernail noir) begins to snatch the nobles from the blade of death.
Along the way, Sir Rodney and the good guys pick up the camp nobleman Duc de Pommfrit (Charles Hawtrey), and gleefully embark on a crusade of rapier battles.
After going from triumph to triumph, the Black Fingernail is almost caught because of his love for Jacqueline (Dany Robin), a young maiden to whom he has given a locket containing his dead mother’s last set of teeth.
Camembert, Bidet and the Big Cheese’s mistress Desirée Dubarry (Joan Sims dans des robes très décolletées) – an uneducated sexpot in a world of perfect manners – follow Ffing and Darcy back to England.
Finally, it’s all back to la belle France and the Chateau Neuf (what else could it be called?!) for the dramatic climax as Camembert’s ‘beautiful things’ are quickly smashed and destroyed.
Don’t Lose Your Head is a beautifully constructed period piece – thanks largely to lavish stately home location shooting – including Cliveden House near Taplow in Buckinghamshire and Waddesdon Manor in Aylesbury – and particularly high production values from director of photography Alan Hume.
Sir Rodney Ffing
Duc de Pommfrit