This rip-roaring return to the glories of British history saw the Carry On cast turn their attention to regal charm and Tudor manners, this timely salute to that royal rogue King Henry VIII couldn’t possibly fail.
Anyone other than Sid James is inconceivable in the lead part, and he rants, roars, womanises and drinks with a relish that epitomises the film.
The fact that the contrasting elements of likeable Sid and his dreadful deeds span so well is clear testament to the comic energy of James.
Kenneth Williams, in a deliciously supercilious mood, minces, camps and moans around the castle, creating new and ever more bizarre taxes and preening himself as the major pillar of reliability.
Charles Hawtrey gives his only really outlandishly camp star contribution to the film series – becoming the perfect foppish dandy as he flits around Sid’s castle, tasting his food, tasting his wine and eventually tasting his new wife, Joan Sims, who becomes pregnant while Sid is busy with other matters.
Terry Scott forges a sort of Tudor Laurel and Hardy act with Kenneth Williams and gives a truly outstanding performance as the inarticulate and confused Cardinal whose hands roam all over the place, while Barbara Windsor cheerfully pops up as the refined Queen Bettina who, unsurprisingly, catches the eye of the King.
Kenneth Connor grovels, creeps and grimaces as an anti-royalist.
The roles are stereotyped certainly, but the narrative they occupy brings them credibility.
Full of prime performances and groan-worthy gags, the film takes the form of a sparkling Restoration comedy with a touch of Shakespearean grandeur.
“This film is based on a recently discovered manuscript by one William Cobbler which reveals that Henry VIII did, in fact, have two more wives. Although it was at first thought that Cromwell originated the story, it is now known to be definitely all Cobbler’s … from beginning to end.”
Henry Tudor (Henry VIII)
Sir Roger de Lodgerley
Lady Bettina of Bristol
Lord Hampton of Wick
Sir Thomas, Duke de Ponteny
Francis King of France
Duc de Pincenay
Count Philippe de Pizza
Charles, Earl of Bristol
The Former Queen