The Royal Navy has just tested their new top-secret torpedo, with disastrous results. With the Captains copy of the blueprints destroyed and Admiral Sir Humphrey Pettigrew due to peruse them when meeting scientist Dr Potter it falls to seaman Officer Blissworth – who accidentally destroyed them in the first place – to help his Captain retrieve the other copy of the plans and keep the Admiral away from the scientist.
Made by the Carry On team Watch Your Stern is a big screen translation of the play Something About A Sailor. It is a far gentler comedy than the latter work of Gerald Thomas performed by a cast who will be very familiar to fans of his films. It is this cast that make the film worth watching, with Kenneth Connor particularly entertaining in the lead role. Eric Sykes and Spike Milligan stand out as a duo of engineers, Spike’s Indian caricature may not be seen as politically correct today but the pair make a great double act. Eric Barker is the suitably officious Captain and Leslie Phillips assists him as Lt. Cmdr. Fanshawe.
The main flaw is that, apart from the abovementioned exceptions, the cast aren't given free reign to play to their comic strengths. For example, Leslie Phillips is not the caddish charmer audiences have come to expect, likewise Sid James – here credited as Special Guest Star no less – who appears with a beard, at least to start with, is not really allowed to bring his trademark personality to the screen. Other roles, such as the Captain’s sister (Joan Sims) could really have been played by any one of a number of actors. The plot does allow for some well judged comic vignettes, most of these involve Kenneth Connor, who gets a rare chance to dominate proceedings with two funny comic personas he adopts in his attempts to delude and delay the Admiral. Noel Purcell, as the aforementioned Admiral, plays off Connors well and a recurring gag about Leslie Phillips’ bike is fun but aside from that Thomas’ film isn’t as good as it should be.
Considering the pedigree this movie has in terms of cast and crew it is, sadly, a pretty unremarkable affair. The script was probably well suited to the stage but doesn’t really benefit from the big screen treatment. Kenneth Connor shines, particularly when he has to don the disguises and Hattie Jacques gives a memorably haughty performance but overall Watch Your Stern is a lesser entry into the Anglo-Amalgamated comedy canon.