24 July 2001 | Seph Rodgers
Looking back at the many ups and downs of the British Film Industry one clear period stands out as very firmly 'up'. This was during the reign of the 'Carry On' team at their peak. For a five year period (1963 - 1968) the team churned out a series of slickly produced genre parodies which, though often substituting authentic locations for a beach in Wales or a field in East Anglia, managed to upstage the Hollywood productions they were thumbing their noses at. 'Carry On Cleo' (1964) exemplifies this period and stands out as (some would argue) one of the greatest British films ever made. The usual cast is out in force, with only a couple of notable absences (i.e. Barbara Windsor), all delivering at the top of their form, and clearly revelling in the luxury of using the sets and props left over from Mankiewicz's megaproduction of 'Cleopatra' (1963). Sid James was never more ruggedly appealing than when suited in the white miniskirt and golden breast plate of Marc Anthony, he also gets to blast the immortal line "BLIMUS!!". Scriptwriting doesn't get any sharper, from start to finish Talbot Rothwell's script glitters. In the part of Cleopatra, Amanda Barrie gives us a good view of her ripples as she floats gracefully in asses milk. Whilst batting her extended eyelashes she asks "Do'st thou like what thou see'st?". Well I certainly do'st. The film is a pleasure to watch, there is never a dull moment as the plot flips furiously between the plight of the cowardly Hengist Pod and heroic Horsa escaping roman enslavement (Kenneth Connor & Jim Dale buckling a fine swash together), and the drama of Julius Caesar's last days of power (Kenneth Williams camping it up to the nines as usual). The story threads intertwine and build to a hilarious climactic chase scene involving a Shakespearian identity swap and a hulking Egyptian guard by the name of 'Sosages'. If contemporary British film-makers would return to taking the mickey instead of sitting passively in Hollywood's thrall, we might see a few more gems like this in the future.