The Robinsons, David (Leslie Phillips) and Catherine (Geraldine McEwan), and their young son, have suffered a financial setback recently when the nightclub David was running had to be closed, leaving them with little option: they will have to sell the country house his aunt left to him in her will to raise funds. However, when they arrive at the place to investigate it, finding it dusty and cobwebby but largely intact, they also meet the old handyman who is still there, Tandy (Noel Purcell), and he is horrified to learn the place may be leaving the family he worked for all these years. But on the steps outside, David has a bright idea: how about they forget about selling, and make plans instead?
Producer Peter Rogers made his fortune, such as it was, with the Carry On series of comedies, but especially in his earlier days he had many humorous properties, as well as drama and thrillers, that he could lay claim to, before settling on the franchise he would be best known for. His regular director for those was Gerald Thomas, and he was at the helm for this as well, though it would be tempting to identify Rogers' other comedies as Carry Ons in all but name. They were different, yet those differences were a lot more subtle in some instances than they were in others, as the trademark ensemble casting and sketch-like structure were in place in many.
Including this one, though what really marked out the non-'Ons was the stronger storyline present in them, here with the lead characters establishing a children's home for the disadvantaged. Well, not strictly disadvantaged, as the kids were the offspring of the rich, but the theme appeared to be that even the better off child can be neglected, thereby imparting a moral lesson to rich, poor and everyone in between to look after your children properly, don't leave them to their own devices or the care of others unless you can't help it. All very noble, but it was more of an excuse to have the audience go "aw…" over the little tykes getting up to various mischievous goings-on.
The kids who attended this summer camp, if you like, were of all ages and even more than one race, suggesting an inclusiveness to the production that was all in the service of its essentially goodhearted style. As expected, with a film aimed at family audiences, there was slapstick for the younger ones and more innuendo-fashioned dialogue for the older ones, which would go over the heads of the more innocent. Not as much as there would be in a Carry On, for those made the seaside postcard humour their stock in trade and No Kidding was not exactly reliant on that, but it was pleasing enough to see a variety of gags even if for the most part (or indeed any part) you would not be rolling on the floor laughing at them.
Helping out were a cast of reliables, led by Phillips, whose knack for having his feathers ruffled by whatever circumstances the script threw at them was put to predictably good use here: just muss his hair and leave him looking harried and you knew there was a comic crisis underway, no matter his more popular impression of playing a succession of smoothies. McEwan was demure in one of her less caricatured roles, and in support Irene Handl was a local councilwoman determined to take over the house for her own children's home, a lot more posh than you might expect here, and future Miss Marple Joan Hickson was a tipsy cook, while Australian character actress June Jago was the stern matron with definite ideas about exercise and nutrition. Meanwhile, Margaret Lockwood's daughter Julia Lockwood showed up as a lovestruck, and possibly lust-struck, teen whose parents are a punchline, and Francesca Annis appeared too. Nothing too taxing, then, but if you wanted a quaint comedy with a slight edge, this provided that in easygoing fashion. Music by Bruce Montgomery.
[Network's The British Film has released this on Blu-ray and DVD, with restored image and sound and a gallery as an extra.]