27 January 2008 | Terrell-4
"Oh no you don't," says the patient to the nurse, who comes into his room holding daffodils, "I saw that film!"
The patient is Francis Bigger, played by Frankie Howerd, and the line is a sly reference to the funniest scene in Carry On Nurse. It's probably the cleverest line in Carry On Doctor. Like Carry On Nurse, Carry On Doctor takes place in hospital and, as the movie says, is a bedpanorama of hospital life.
The long-running Carry On movies were bawdy, low-comedy, good-natured madhouses that featured a repertory company of comics we came to recognize instantly. Here, the company is made up of Kenneth Williams, Jim Dale, Hattie Jacques, Sid James, Joan Sims, Charles Hawtrey, Barbara Windsor and Bernard Bresslaw, among others. They play the patients, the doctors and the nurses at Finisham Hospital. If you relish jokes about bedpans and hernias, where any possible activity below the waist will wind up as corny, corny jokes or wheezing double entendres, Finisham is the place to be. Says Dr. Kilmore (Jim Dale) to Francis Bigger, "Just as I thought. You fell on your coccyx." "I did not," says Bigger, "I fell on my back." "Your coccyx is at the base of the spine," points out Dr. Kilmore. Says Bigger, "Well I've never heard it called that before."
A Carry On hospital movie always has lots of nubile nurses assisting the longing denizens of the male ward. "Nurse, I dreamt about you last night," says a hobbled Ken Biddle (Bernard Bresslaw) to the stacked Nurse Clarke (Anita Harris). "Did you?" she asks? "No," Biddle says, "you wouldn't let me." And of course we have to deal with the Matron, a large woman more indomitable than a battleship, who knows how to keep any male quivering at the thought of one of her enemas or her ice baths. Has a matron ever been played as perfectly as Hattie Jacques? Her matrons always know what they want, and in this movie, Matron wants Dr. Kenneth Tinkle (Kenneth Williams), the hospital's chief physician. "Matron," Dr. Tinkle says, "you may not realize it but I was once a weak man!" "Doctor," says Matron, "once a week is enough for any man!"
Who cares what the plot is when we have lines like these? We even have Charles Hawtrey who, in film as well as in life, raised mincing about to an art form, playing a father-to-be suffering from false pregnancy symptoms. It's a small, unlikely and vivid bit. The whole movie is a funny, gently off-color and totally innocent experience...such as the small boy who swallowed half a crown and was taken to hospital. Two days later the boy's mum asks the doctor, "How's he doing?" "Sorry, missus," the doctor says, "there's still no change."