Carry On Christmas (1969, 1970, 1972, 1973) – Film Review

carry on christmas film review

By Sarah Morgan

If a formula works well, flog it to death.

That could have been the mantra of director Gerald Thomas and producer Peter Rogers – that and ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

carry on christmas film review coverThey were the driving force behind the Carry On films, one of the longest-running and most successful set of movies in British cinema history.


It’s 30 years since the last one was released – the truly appalling Carry On Columbus, which is best left forgotten – but they remain beloved by generations of fans who can’t get enough of the cheesy and often bawdy music hall-style gags. The fact that the same wonderful repertory of actors turns up time and again probably adds to the appeal too.

Alongside the 31 big screen outings were several forays into TV, including the series Carry On Laughing, which was made in the mid-1970s as cinema audiences began to dwindle. It was a bit hit-and-miss, but more successful were the four Carry On Christmas specials made in 1969, 1970, 1972 and 1973, and which form the bulk of a new release from Network.

Like the movies, they’re quite cheaply made, probably reusing costumes from other productions. The first is easily the best, a reworking of A Christmas Carol with Sid James making a decent Scrooge. Fans of Hammer films will be interested to see Bernard Bresslaw as Frankenstein’s monster in one scene – he was among those considered to play the creature in The Curse of Frankenstein before Christopher Lee was cast.

The 1970 edition is a spoof of Treasure Island. It’s also in black and white, as it was when it was originally broadcast due to a technicians’ strike. Next comes 1972’s selection of historical sketches framed by an 18th-century banquet. Last but not least, 1973 is a modern-day story about a department store Santa. Sid James once again takes the lead; he also introduces sketches and, bizarrely, a ballet featuring some of the series’ biggest stars.

carry on christmas film review dvd

“Much to entertain”

The gags come thick and fast, but not all of them hit the mark. Still, it’s always good to see James in action alongside the likes of Barbara Windsor, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, Peter Butterworth and the aforementioned Bresslaw. Kenneth Williams, sadly, doesn’t appear in any of them.

The second disc’s contents are actually more intriguing. It features All This – And Christmas Too! a festive comedy special starring Sid James as a grandfather-to-be that plays like a long-lost episode of his sitcom Bless This House. His old Carry On pal Kenneth Connor also pops up.

Also included are a number of interviews with Carry On favourites such as Jack Douglas, Wendy Richard and producer Rogers, all of whom paint a merry picture of life on set.

Although it’s unlikely to win over any new fans, lovers of the series will find much to entertain them here.

‘Carry on Christmas: The Four Original Christmas TV Specials is released on DVD by Network 


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