+++ Captain Crowther (Sidney James) is quite proud of his career. Despite the fact that some of his superiors do not look kindly on his humble background, he worked his way up from ship’s steward all the way to the bridge. After several successful voyages with his veteran crew, he hopes that this will be the last one on his humble Mediterranean cruise ship, the S.S. Happy Wanderer, and that he will be chosen to helm the company’s brand new transatlantic liner.
There is a snatch, however. Due to a string of unfortunate circumstances, some of his trusted crewmembers had to be replaced on short notice. And the fact that he does not know if the new guys will turn out to be solid replacements or complete duds makes him really nervous. +++
Carry On Cruising is the first colour Carry On film (Eastman Colour). But they did not completely commit to colour yet. Because of cost, they decided to alternate for a while, going with black&white, colour, and black&white again for next three films before staying with colour from Carry On Cleo onwards.
Speaking of cost: the budget of this film was roughly 60% higher than that for the previous film. I am not sure if all of this is down to the use of the colour, but maybe there is just that little bit more of effort that had to go into the set and costumes here. Because in spite of the fact that all of this was filmed on a soundstage at Pinewood, and that they didn’t bother to ever fake the rolling of the ship, everything looks very convincing as far as the set are concerned. And the costumes are great, and there are lots and lots of them. Cruises like this were a luxury holiday back then, and people would bring quite a lot of suits or dresses, and the costumes in this film reflect that. You never really see anyone in the same outfit twice (except, of course, for the uniformed crew).
They tried to rein the budget in in other areas. Originally they had planned to film parts of the scenes on an actual cruise ship in the Mediterranean, but moved away from that idea. Likewise, there is not a single scene set on land. A cruise would provide the perfect opportunity to have one or two characters get into shenanigans in different ports from Gibraltar to Egypt, which would lend itself to a lot of easily written and impressive comedy scenes. But none of this happens here. So not only did they not film on an actual ship, they were even to stingy to actually but additional sets that looked like a Spanish bar or an Arabian bazar.
All the money and effort went into the cruise ship set, which – as I just said – looks very convincing and shows a lot of attention to detail. One of the more complicated parts was a large, deep swimming pool with actual lavish murals at the bottom (which I don’t think we even get to see in the film).
This film swings away from Carry On Regardless in quite a big way. Whereas that film had only a razor thin frame narrative, Carry On Cruising has a proper plot in the same way that Carry On Teacher had. And it also has proper characters.
As is pointed out on the DVD commentary for this film, this subject of an authority figure having to put up with inexperienced newcomers is a good source for comedy, and had been used previously in both Carry On Sergeant and Carry On Constable. And in Carry On Cruising too, this premise provides for lots of comedic scenes involving the new crew members (including Kenneth Connor and Kenneth Williams). But the chief plotline is actually that of two young friends who booked this cruise together, Gladys and Florence. Gladys (Liz Fraser) is looking to get a break from men while Flo (Dilys Lay) is looking for a potential husband. It is Flo’s story that carries us through the film and it gives Lay and Fraser lots of dialogue and lots of screen-time at a time when such roles were somewhat rare for comedic actresses.
As always, everyone here does a great job, whether in the main roles (Williams, Connor, Fraser, Lay, James) or the main supporting roles (Lance Percival, Esma Cannon, Cyril Chamberlain, Jimmy Thompson, Ronnie Stevens, Brian Rawlinson). There are lots of extras, of course, but (again unlike Carry On Regardless) there are barely any small or tiny roles. So the billed cast is comparatively small in number.
Missing from the cast were Charles Hawtrey, who had developed a disagreement with the filmmakers, and Joan Sims, who was powered out after a long West End run (although rumour has it that the studio sidelined her for a while because of an illicit affair with a stagehand). Dilys Lay stepped in for Sims; while Lance Percival, who had already been cast for a smaller role in the film, got promoted into the role of the ship’s cook which had been meant for Hawtrey.
As is commonly the case in this franchise, not just the cast is filled with regulars but the crew as well – Thomas directing, Rogers producing, Hume as DP, Shirley as editor. Norman Hudis once again penned the screenplay, but in this case comedian and actor Eric Barker received a story credit for having originally suggested the idea.
For the opening credits’ music, Bruce Montgomery’s Carry On theme has been intermixed with elements from The Sailor’s Hornpipe.
As I described above, this film is competently and efficiently filmed, with a somewhat lavish wardrobe and a ship-set that looked like the real thing. But at least one scene has been put randomly in the wrong place during editing. The main scenes in this film have been divided by smaller, unimportant scenes as a sort of separator. And the chronologically misplaced scene fulfils that same purpose. As Dilys Lay pointed out on the commentary track, the production was so tightly planned and economically frugal that scenes that had not been shot in time were simply cut from the screenplay. So it might just be that this scene that irritated me so much was simply put there because the editor John Shirley could not find anything else he could have used as a separator.
This is a rather enjoyable film. I like the premise and the story, but the plot is still very thin. I enjoy the cast and the characters they play, but not so much some of the things the script does with these characters. I mean, the script does not do much with them in the first place, but some of the scenes are silly, including a mock bullfight between Kenneth Connor and Kenneth Williams.
Although quality-wise this is at least on par with Carry On Teacher, it somehow feels a bit less coherent. But I’d still rate it at 6 out of 10.