Sunday, 25 June 2017

My Review of Sykes: The Complete Series

 

As I've previously blogged, Network On Air will be releasing the Complete Sykes on DVD, tomorrow 26 June! Sykes has always been one of my very favourite classic comedy series and I was thrilled when offered the chance of a sneak preview of the new DVD set. The set comprises all 68 episodes of the colour series broadcast on the BBC between 1972 and 1979. The first colour series from 1972 was issued on DVD some years back however this is the first time every episode from the relaunched programme has been available for fans to own.

Sykes is a glorious semi-surreal domestic sitcom which at the heart is all about the joyous chemistry between long time collaborators Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques. As twins Eric and Hat, life at Sebastopol Terrace, East Acton, was always full of surprises. While the series features a host of well-known, colourful guest stars, for me it's all about Sykes and Jacques. Sykes, who also wrote all the episodes, is playing the slightly pompous arrogant little man, finding himself in a host of tricky situations. Jacques meanwhile steps away from the bombastic Matron persona of the Carry Ons to play a softer character who is normally the voice of reason when her brother gets above himself. I always loved Sykes for the fact the writing very very rarely touched upon Hattie's size, something which could sometimes dominate in the Carry Ons. Sykes features by far some of my favourite performances from Hattie, surely one of our all-time greatest comic actresses.

 

For me the first series from 1972 features the best quality scripts and stories. Many of them are simply remade from the original 1960s black and white Sykes and A ... which ran from 1960 to 1965. That doesn't matter - if they feel at all familiar it's only in a comforting sense. My all-time favourite episode has to be the one featuring Peter Sellers as the escaped convict Tommy Grando. This episode, "Stranger" features a rare television performance from Sellers, who obviously goes back a long way with Eric. The chemistry between the three lead actors is superb and it's clear they can hardly keep a straight face throughout. The studio audience reaction is catching and the whole episode a complete joy.

Sykes also features other regular characters. The peerless Richard Wattis plays the snooty, snobbish next door neighbour Mr Brown, very much Eric's nemesis. The pair work brilliantly against each other. Such a shame that Wattis passed away during the run - his absence from the later series is keenly felt. Also along for the entire run is Please Sir! favourite Deryck Guyler as P.C Corky Turnbull. Corky is probably the world's most incompetent police constable but Guyler brings along a breezy sense of comedy and easy going charm and is a vital part of the series' success. Making several appearances throughout the run is Carry On favourite and Hattie's best friend, the wonderful Joan Sims. As bakery owner Madge Kettlewell, Joan is Eric's love interest and very nearly marries him at one stage! Joan is great as Madge and there are some fantastic bloopers included of Joan cracking up on set with Eric and Hattie which show Sims' tremendous sense of fun. It's just a shame she didn't feature more often in the show.

 

A host of other brilliant, well-known talent features in the series. The likes of Bernard Bresslaw, Roy Kinnear, John Le Mesurier, Joan Hickson, Dinah Sheridan, Sheila Steafel, Michael Ripper, Derek Francis, Les Dawson, Chic Murray, Hugh Paddick and Bill Maynard all appear throughout the run. The quality of the writing and the performances from all these wonderful talents really does make Sykes a cut above many other comedy series of the time.

The DVD set isn't cheap however it contains pristine versions of all 68 episodes, totaling nearly 2000 minutes of classic BBC comedy, of the kind they just don't make any more. The set has some interesting extras. They include a special interview with the late, great Eric Sykes; a special Spotlight programme on the comedian; behind the scenes footage from the studio as the series was filmed and an extensive booklet of extra information on the series written by television historian Andrew Pixley. 

 

The chance to own a complete set of this classic comedy is just too good an opportunity to miss. I grew up catching repeats of this series on BBC2 and sadly it appears yet another one of those shows that is just never broadcast on the television any more. This newly presented DVD box set is the perfect opportunity to relive some classic comedy and see some of our favourite comedy stars doing what they do best!

Sykes: The Complete Series is available from tomorrow, Monday 26 June.





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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Happy Birthday Julian Holloway!

 

Many happy returns to that wonderful British actor Julian Holloway who celebrates his birthday today. Julian, who has lived in California for the last twenty years, appeared in eight classic Carry On films during a long career in television, film and on stage.

Julian made his first appearance in the Carry Ons as a cheeky ticket inspector opposite Angela Douglas in Follow That Camel in 1967. He went on to appear in Carry On Doctor later that year, following that up with larger roles as Major Shorthouse in Up The Khyber (taking part in the legendary dinner party sequence) and as Jim Tanner in Camping - witnessing Barbara Windsor's infamous bikini popping moment. Later roles in the series included Adrian in Carry On Loving, Sir Thomas in Carry On Henry and an uncredited cameo as Roger in At Your Convenience. Following a gap of five years, during which he guest starred in the 1973 Carry On Christmas television special, Julian returned to Pinewood to play Major Butcher in 1976's Carry On England. 

 

There was a definite feel that the producers were lining Julian up to take over where Jim Dale left off. He obviously stepped in to cover some of Jim's material while he was absent from the series in 1968 but I don't know what happened after that as big roles in the films didn't really materialise for Julian. I think that's a shame as he had a wonderful cheeky chappie persona which suited the Carry Ons perfectly. 

Away from the Carry Ons, Julian has enjoyed a long and successful career. On film he appeared in the Beatles' movie A Hard Day's Night, Ryan's Daughter, Scream and Scream Again, Young Winston and the big screen version of Porridge. On television, Julian has appeared in everything from The World of Wooster and Crown Court to The Sweeney, The Professionals and Minder. One of my favourite of all his performances was as the drunken Jack Favell in the BBC's 1979 adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's classic novel Rebecca, which starred Anna Massey, Joanna David and Jeremy Brett. These days Julian works in America and is a prolific vocal artist both in films and commercials. 

Julian is the son of the late, great Stanley Holloway who starred in many classic British films including The Lavender Hill Mob, Passport to Pimlico and The Titfield Thunderbolt and Julian's daughter is the model turned television cook Sophie Dahl. 

We most recently saw Julian take part in the ITV Carry On Forever documentary where he shared memories of his time working on such treasured classics as Carry On Up The Khyber and Carry On Camping. It's a shame we don't see more of him on our screens these days. 

 

Whatever Julian is up to today, I hope he has a fantastic birthday!





You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Friday, 23 June 2017

Carry On Laughing: Carry On Matron

 

The news has been pretty bleak of late what with one thing and another. It can be difficult in troubled times to stay positive but I think if anyone is going to keep us smiling in the face of adversity it's the Carry On team. So every day this week I'm going to blog one of my favourite Carry On clips to hopefully raise the odd smile or two.

To finish this week of special Carry On clips, I've chosen a sequence from the 1971 classic, Carry On Matron. The film is dominated by a trio of wonderful performance from series veterans Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey and this scene sees them at their joyously camp best. Kenneth's Sir Bernard Cutting is desperate to prove himself to Jacques' Matron however Charles gets in the way as Dr F.A Goode! 

The scene sees Talbot Rothwell at his best. It's packed full of funny one liners, beautifully played farce and plenty of slapstick. The scene of Hattie and Charles settling down for an evening of television viewing is set up wonderfully and Kenneth's undignified entrance into proceedings is a joy to behold. Quite simply it's three old pros having a whale of a time in each others' company! Enjoy! 






Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Happy Birthday Sally Geeson!

 

Many happy returns to the lovely Sally Geeson, who celebrates her birthday today. Sally, who returned to the entertainment business a couple of years back, did of course star in two classic Carry On films in the 1970s.

Sally made her biggest and most memorable appearance in the series with her role as Lily in Carry On Abroad in 1972. In what many fans believe to be the last really great Carry On, Sally worked well opposite Carol Hawkins as two young girls off on a long weekend to the Spanish island of Elsbells. Sally proved such a hit with the team that she returned for the very next Carry On, playing the cameo role as Cecil Gaybody's assistant Debra in Carry On Girls.

Sally did make an even earlier appearance in the Carry Ons, with a blink and you'll miss it cameo as a child actor in Carry On Regardless in 1960. If you keep your eyes peeled during the Ideal Home section of the film, you may just spot a young Sally in the audience as Kenneth Williams demonstrates the latest in children's toys!

These days Sally is best remembered for playing Sid James' daughter (also called Sally) in the classic Thames television sitcom Bless This House. Sally spent nearly six years with the series and also appeared in the big screen version, produced and directed by a certain Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas. Sadly Sally is now the last surviving cast member from the Bless This House series. 

I love Sally's obvious love and devotion for her late colleague and screen father, Sid James. She always speaks so fondly of Sid and clearly admired him, enjoyed working with him and learned a lot from the great man. As Sid's memory was frequently sullied following his death, it's wonderful to hear such positive recollections of a man who was a comedy hero to many.

 

Whatever Sally is up to today, I hope she had a wonderful birthday!


You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Carry On Laughing: Carry On Loving

 

The news has been pretty bleak of late what with one thing and another. It can be difficult in troubled times to stay positive but I think if anyone is going to keep us smiling in the face of adversity it's the Carry On team. So every day this week I'm going to blog one of my favourite Carry On clips to hopefully raise the odd smile or two.

Today I bring you a delightful clip from the first Carry On from the saucy seventies - Carry On Loving. The dating agency comedy, Rothwell's in-house tribute to Norman Hudis' Carry On Regardless a decade earlier, features the regular Carry On faces alongside a mix of younger, fresh-faced talent such as Richard O'Callaghan, Imogen Hassall and Jacki Piper. The clip I've chosen features the lovely Imogen before her dramatic and very glamorous transformation.

The slightly randy, accident prone Terence Philpott (Terry Scott) is sent off to the Grubb residence to met the daughter, Jenny (Hassall). However Terry ends up taking tea with the entire Grubb family, a real rogues gallery of mainly silent cameos. Joan Hickson guest stars as the formidable head of the family and the scene is a delightful farce which could have graced the London stage or any of the best television sitcoms of the era:






More coming up tomorrow!

Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Carry On Laughing: Again Doctor

 

The news has been pretty bleak of late what with one thing and another. It can be difficult in troubled times to stay positive but I think if anyone is going to keep us smiling in the face of adversity it's the Carry On team. So every day this week I'm going to blog one of my favourite Carry On clips to hopefully raise the odd smile or two.

Today I've got a clip from the 1969 medical Carry On, Again Doctor. This film is well remembered for featuring Jim Dale on his runaway hospital trolley and Barbara Windsor wearing little more than three strategically placed hearts. Ahem. The clip below is a lovely little inconsequential scene featuring the soon to depart Jim Dale as Dr Jimmy Nookey. It's basically an excuse to shoehorn two of Jim's frequent co-stars from previous films into the action - Peter Gilmore and Peter Butterworth.

The spot diagnosis gag is yet again not very complex or high brow but it's lifted above the humdrum by performances from three lovely actors. Peter Butterworth in particular shines through this very brief cameo as a rather pained hospital visitor...!




More coming up tomorrow!

Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Carry On Laughing: Carry On Abroad

 

The news has been pretty bleak of late what with one thing and another. It can be difficult in troubled times to stay positive but I think if anyone is going to keep us smiling in the face of adversity it's the Carry On team. So every day this week I'm going to blog one of my favourite Carry On clips to hopefully raise the odd smile or two.

Today I've got a clip from another film in my top ten - the glorious Carry On Abroad. Probably the last film in the series to be officially termed a classic, it features a cast full of wonderful comedy actors and the very last appearance from Charles Hawtrey. The clip below is a mash up of various slapstick calamities to befall the likes of Sid James, Jimmy Logan and Peter Butterworth as they battle through the dubious pleasures of the Palace Hotel on the island of Elsbells. 

This video clip features one of my very favourite sequences from the entire series as Sid and Peter Butterworth engage in a lovely bit of business involving a balcony door. The gag is set up early on in the film and bears fruit during the big finale. it's a fairly basic scene lifted up into something special thanks to Sid's brilliant comic timing and a truly hysterical Joan Sims who's laughter goes way beyond normal performance!





More coming up tomorrow!

Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram