Genre: Comedy and Slapstick Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.
Release Date: October 25th, 1965 MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Gerald Thomas Actors: Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Jim Dale, Amanda Barrie, Victor Maddern, Julie Stevens, Sheila Hancock, Jon Pertwee
n an ancient Buddhist settlement, Hengist Pod (Kenneth Connor) works tirelessly on crafting square wheels – his latest innovation – while his wife, Senna (Sheila Hancock), berates him continuously. Next door neighbor Horsa (Jim Dale) helps Pod accidentally discover a use for his invention – as a window frame – just as Julius Caesar (Kenneth Williams) marches from the north with his Roman army, led by General Mark Antony (Sidney James). Horsa is captured, as Hengist bravely gives pursuit, only to unwittingly ask for transport aboard the very same coach containing his shackled fellow villagers.
Two months later, as Caesar’s conquest advances and he returns to Rome, he’s ungratefully greeted by an angry, tomato-tossing mob. Even Calpurnia (Joan Sims) isn’t pleased to see him. And sage Seneca (Charles Hawtrey) only warns of ill omens, as Brutus (Brian Oulton) plots in the Senate. All the while, fears grow concerning Egyptian ruler Cleopatra (Amanda Barrie) and her upcoming marriage to Ptolemy.
It begins with blatant slapstick before transitioning into a nonstop barrage of one-liners, goofy wordplay, and visual gags – and then back to slapstick. The period piece setting, based on an “original idea by Shakespeare,” is ripe for lampooning, mixing in all sorts of rips on everything from toilets to eunuchs to poisonous asps. As with many of these kinds of comedies, the jokes are nonstop, some of which land as others fall pitiably flat. But the intent is to keep them coming at such a fast pace that the bad ones are forgotten in favor of the better ones (and some carry on for a considerable time just to stick a cheesy, throwaway jab).
“Where are my laurels? Oh, silly me, I’ve been resting on them.” Amid the light laughs are spoofs on historical accounts, along with the amusement of seeing Pod and Horsa inadvertently rise up through the ranks of the Roman army, or escape from enslavement, or orchestrate sloppy revolts. In the world of “Carry On Cleo,” real heroism and real danger are entirely absent.
Yet despite the lack of seriousness, the biggest problem ultimately rests with the minuscule nature of the jokes; even with such an unrelenting onslaught of absurdities, few are memorable or inspire genuine belly-laughs. Plus, the Julius Caesar storyline (costumes and all) wears thin quickly, stretching the humor to an equally threadlike degree. As the tenth film in the “Carry On” series, this particular entry has become quite comfortable with the formula, bringing back familiar faces and gags, and is often considered one of the best of the whopping 31-feature collection – though to anyone unfamiliar with these pictures, its qualities and relevance are trivial at best.
– Mike Massie