A major departure from the slap and tickle style of Carry On comedy, this film met with a woefully poor reaction from the public and brought the Carry On’s to their lowest level.
The sexual frustration and innocent banter had been completely abandoned and in its place was a more open-minded attitude to sex.
Sadly lacking is a solid team of old favourites, the film had a script which replaced the non-stop stream of innuendo of the Rothwell era with a more smutty, arrogant form of comedy.
Only four regulars were recruited to see through this resurrection of Carry On Sergeant (1958), Kenneth Connor moves away from his endearing little man persona to a bombastic, foul-tempered and obsessive military dictator, running his mixed anti-aircraft battery of British soldiers like a prison camp.
Peter Butterworth makes the most of his cocky put-down to the bumbling Connor, contrasted with his own nervous persona when he is in assistance to the Brigadier.
Butterworth, all stiff-upper-lipped mockery and cowardly energy when the bombs start falling, gives a pleasing if ultimately unsatisfactorily brief cameo.
Joan Sims is even worse off, presented with the throwaway role of a domineering lovelorn Private with barely ten lines to deliver.
Indeed, the only member of the Carry On team to remain in anything like their usual comic characterisation is the much welcome Jack Douglas, who twitches and jerks around the barracks in several inspired scenes of eccentric comedy.
A barking mad, sinisterly grinning and ball-crushing Windsor Davies manages to inject his manic Sgt Major into the sequences, along with Peter Jones who steps into the madness for his only major Carry On contribution.
Besieged by a script full of dreadful puns, Peter struggles with lavatorial humour and a collection of painfully unfunny comments, single-handedly having to put across the worse selection of jokes in Carry On history with conviction.
Peter Jones and Peter Butterworth quickly depart after enlivening the latter stages of the film, and it’s left to the over-excited Jack Douglas and the barrack boys and girls to save the day.
The desired effect of this showcasing of self-aware poor gags is undermined by the fact that the genuine jokes within the film are not much better.
Clearly, there are moments to enjoy and a clutch of the actors are always worth watching, regardless of the poor material. However, in comparison to the classic entries, this is too much change, too soon.
A new team could not be recruited overnight, and even though the odd familiar face is in the background, the chief exponents of the romantic ideals and comic lines are those youthful characters who lack the grasp of innuendo timing.
Cinema audiences for Carry On England were so poor that the film was withdrawn from release and wasn’t seen again until it aired on British television in 1983.
Captain S Melly
Sgt Major ‘Tiger’ Bloomer
Sgt Len Able
Sgt Tilly Willing
Pvt Alice Easy