Pub landlord Vic Flange has arranged a dirty weekend away at the Spanish resort of Elsbels with the saucy Sadie. But when his aviophobic wife finds out she decides, much to his annoyance, to join them. Can things get any worse on this package holiday arranged by Stuart Farquhar of Wundatours? The answer is most definitely yes as the quintessentially British Carry On team take on the quintessentially British tradition of the package holiday with obvious results.
There is a commonly held belief amongst aficionados that the best Carry On films are those with an historical setting. It is true that the likes of Cleo, Khyber and Don't Lose Your Head are well crafted romps, looking like proper big screen films and offering fans the enticing opportunity to see the familiar comic company of actors in fancy period costumes and locations. However, Carry On Abroad, without question the last consistently entertaining entry in the franchise, is the exception that proves the rule.
Opening in a typical British hostelry into which Jack Douglas enters indulging in his slapstick routine, his brief cameo is nothing more than perfunctory exposition for the rather slight plot of this the 23rd addition to the series. On some levels it shouldn't work as it has a decidedly minimalist script; the Carry On gang go on a foreign holiday - in actuality the Pinewood Studios car park - and the hotel is still under construction. But it is held together by some brilliant gags and a cast that seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Abroad is basically and unashamedly the Carry On formula distilled down to its very essence and because of this it relies totally on the actors performances for its success. Thankfully their masterful delivery and effortless comic timing has never been more apparent. The line up includes almost a full complement of regulars, most of them ensconced at the rather ramshackle Palace Hotel.
As Vic Flange Sid James is now a somewhat aging lothario but still has that great way of delivering the dialogue with his unmistakable laugh practically a punchline in itself. Barbara Windsor is obviously the object of his affections but he has a rival in new boy Jimmy Logan. Joan Sims is the perfect foil as Sid’s other half Mrs Flange, and the couple’s interaction with the other married duo of June Whitfield and Kenneth Connor is full of laughs. A dinner table exchange between them is classic Carry On. Charles Hawtrey delivers another faultless turn - complete with his standard greeting of "Oh! Hello!" - as Mr Tuttle the mummy's boy on holiday and off the leash who proceeds to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible. Whether he is acting or not is debatable but it is a fitting but unfortunately final appearance. Kenneth Williams is suitably snobby as the Wundatours rep Stuart Farquhar and Peter Butterworth gets the most exercise as Pepe, the manager/waiter/porter of the Palace Hotel. His nationality questionable thanks to Butterworth’s comic accent. But top honours go to Kenneth Connor as the stiff-upper lipped sex starved Stanley Blunt. Every line is delivered with a wonderful physical flourish and even when just in the background of shots he gives 100%.
Much of regular scriptwriter Talbot Rothwell's material is derived from saucy seaside postcards so it's surprising that the holiday theme hadn't been used before. In tackling the first tentative influx of British tourists to new foreign destinations the film is a snapshot of a certain era in which Brits began venturing to sun drenched shores for their holidays thanks to cheap package deals offered by the likes of Freddie Laker. As such the episodic misadventures of the gang include all the holiday clichés of shoddy accommodation, day trip excursions, dodgy food - "sausage, beans and chippings", and confrontational encounters with the locals. Proceedings are peppered with the usual mix of double entendres & bawdy British humour with things getting off to a pretty good start when Stuart Farquhar introduces himself to the hotel manager - "Stupid what?" the priceless reply. It all ends in a fun final night party, enhanced considerably by Liquera Por L'amura, a kind of continental GHB.
The last time so many of the regulars would be on screen together this is the best of the series. Carry On Abroad lets the actor’s performances and Rothwell’s ribald one-liners come to the fore, without the distractions of fancy costumes, wigs and sets. It certainly won't win over any new converts but for fans it is a film to savour, it was pretty much all downhill after this.