In the year of 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…
Well, he would if he could find a map and someone to pay for his voyage. Convinced that there was a sea route to the East, he was determined to gain for himself all the riches currently being claimed in taxes on all goods passing through his country by the Sultan of Turkey. When Mordecai, a very recent 'convert' from Judaism, appears with the document he needs, he sets off to see the King and Queen of Spain to secure a ship. Hot on his trail are Fatima and Achmed, the Sultan's best (and worst) agents, to stop Columbus at all costs and make sure the Sultan's wealth doesn't vanish.
After securing a ship, a motley crew, and surviving several sabotage attempts, they finally reach land. But it does not appear that this shore is home to the Indians they were expecting...
Carry On Columbus can best be described as very, very thinly spread Marmite. Those who don't like it, really don't like it. And those who do like it (like myself) seem to regard it as an OK flick, not particularly good, but average to middling in parts. But could have been much more...
This is due in a large way to the challenges they faced during production and with an audience that had moved on from the Seventies.
Trying to release a film about Columbus in 1992 wasn't in any way unique, but it did mean that you couldn't overrun the 500th Anniversary of his voyage. So time was tight, and as such, required rewrites were hurried, casting bordered on the "Are you available? Then you’re hired" approach, and post-production was rushed through in a very haphazard way. And it was then shown to audiences who either felt too nostalgic for the classics of their youth, or didn't get the purpose of a Carry On.
But that does the film a disservice.
Yes there are poor performances, terrible lines, dodgy sets and tacky production values, certainly. But there's still worth there. Bernard Cribbins gives his all as Mordecai, and whilst Jim Dale goes over the top on occasion, he throws everything into the role of Columbus. Some of the newcomers get the point of a Carry On (Julian Clary, Alexei Sayle and the lovely Sara Crowe especially) and there are some wonderfully delivered jokes in the script that are worth waiting for, my favorite being between Rebecca Lacey and Jack Douglas, who set up and deliver a punchline about sharks that is delightful.
The Americans (for 'tis they that Columbus discovers) hit just the right note of Brooklyn condescension towards these ignorant visitors, even down to the broad accents and attitudes.
And if more proof was needed, consider the other two major commemorative films of the year - Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, and 1492: Conquest Of Paradise - cost $45 million and $47 million respectively to make, whilst Columbus cost less than $3 million, and yet the Carry On effort out performed both of its big budget rivals at the box office.
Is Carry On Columbus a good film? Well.... no.
Is it the worst Carry On? Most certainly not. Anyone who has sat through Carry On Emmannuelle will know that...
That's a coincidence, I was thinking about this film today! The funniest line was in the trailer: "If you've seen something here that offends you, we'll whip it out!" The progress of years hadn't made the production any less stingy, nor the jokes any fresher, but I'd agree Emmannuelle remained the worst of the lot. Clary deserved better, he could have had a nice side career in movies if the industry had been on healthier form.
19 Jan 2017
Oh, I liked the "Will they eat me whole?" "No miss, I think they spit that bit out!" line...