DVD
The Carry On Collection (2007)
Carry On Cleo (1964)

Starring: Kenneth Williams, Sid James, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Jim Dale, Amanda Barrie and Julie Stephens
Optimum Classic
RRP: 12.99
OPTD0711
Certificate: PG
Available 29 January 2007


"Infamy, infamy - they've all got it in for me!" Kenneth Williams's Julius Caesar is having a bad day in the funniest toga party of all time - a historical and hysterical take on the life and loves of the Queen of the Nile. Follow the amorous adventures of Sidney James's Mark Anthony as he clinches with the gorgeous Amanda Barrie's sultry Cleopatra, in most lavish looking of all the
Carry On films...

Caesar is not enjoying life - the British weather doesn't agree with him... he's caught a cold. As if that wasn't bad enough, his general, Mark Anthony, is plotting with Cleopatra to overthrow him. Meanwhile, genius inventor Hengist Pod has come up with a brilliant idea to stop carts rolling downhill - square wheels. Before he can perfect his idea, however, he and his friend Horsa are captured and sold into slavery. What will become of them...?

Carry On Cleo is possibly the classiest (if you can accuse a Carry On film of being classy) movie in the series - and as funny today as it was all those years ago. Apart from the lavish (for Carry On) sets, beautiful costumes, and fantastic lighting, this movie also has some of the best lines in any of the franchise's history. "Infamy, infamy - they've all got it in for me!" and Williams's "Friends, Romans..." repeating gag still bring a huge smile to this reviewer's face.

The sight of Charles Hawtrey hiding in a large urn; Sid James biting the head of an asp; and the lovely Amanda Barrie as Cleopatra, all make this movie a joy to watch again even after all these years.

There are some great cameo appearances too. Jon Pertwee plays a crazy old mystic fortune teller; Warren Mitchell appears as a slave trader; and Sheila Hancock turns up as Kenneth Connor's wife.

Extras include an audio commentary with Amanda Barrie, Julie Stevens and Carry On historian Robert Ross; trivia notes; stills gallery and trailer.

The commentary is interesting - possibly the most enjoyable of all of the 2007 Carry On collection commentaries - as Barrie and Stevens have some great stories to tell. These include the fact that Barrie's agent got the dates confused and, as a consequence, Barrie ended up being double booked - filming Cleo in the day and then rushing over to the West End to appear in a show in the evening.

Barrie also reveals that most of her costumes had actually been used previously by Elizabeth Taylor in the movie Cleopatra, which had been filmed the year before Cleo. Barrie also reveals how much she loved both Sid James and Charles Hawtrey, who she says were incredibly good to her. She goes on to say how sad it is that there are so many books, and plays, that attack James for being a miserable and nasty man. She claims he was anything but, and it saddens her to hear people bad mouth him. She also tells a great tale about how her and James were sent home one day because they couldn't keep it together on set - laughing uncontrollably because James kept saying "Shakespeare" instead of "Cesar".

Kenneth Williams, on the other hand... Both Barrie and Stevens believe that no one really knew him and that he was a bit of a "freak creature". Stevens recalls several events over the years where Williams would just get up from the dinner table and leave.

Barrie also reveals that she was involved in an accident during the filming of Cleo - she walked into a very hot milk bath and was badly scolded. And she tells the story of how her stunt woman was hurt in the carpet roll scene - when the table came down and cut the stunt woman quite badly.

As with a lot of these commentaries, the sore point about money is raised. Barrie complains about not getting repeat fees, but Stephens makes a valid point - one which no one else has mentioned in the past - that the wages were not that bad for the time. She also believes that the actors shouldn't get repeat fees (which no one was contracted to receive anyway) as no one knew they would play and play.

If you only intend to buy one Carry On DVD from the selection of 12 that are being released by Optimum Classic (representing the first 12 movies in the series) then please make sure it's this one.

Darren Rea

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