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Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)
Directed byGerald Thomas
Production CompanyRank Film Distributors
Produced byPeter Rogers
Director of PhotographyErnest Steward
Screenplay byTalbot Rothwell

Cast: Sidney James (Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond); Kenneth Williams (The Khasi of Kalabar); Charles Hawtrey (Private James Widdle); Roy Castle (Captain Keene); Joan Sims (Lady Joan Ruff-Diamond); Bernard Bresslaw (Bungdit Din)

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India under British occupation. The men of the Third Foot and Mouth Regiment come under attack when revolting Burpas discover that the soldiers sport underwear beneath their kilts.

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Many consider Carry On... Up the Khyber (d. Gerald Thomas, 1968) to be the best in the series. It was the Carry On entry that got the most votes in the 1999 British Film Institute poll of the 100 finest British films ever made (it was placed 99th). A zany look at Britain's colonial past, it spoofs such Empire adventures as Zulu (d. Cy Enfield, 1964) and Khartoum (d. Basil Dearden, 1966), delighting in its emphasis on British peculiarities and eccentricities. Part of the reason for its continuing appeal certainly lies in the way it seeks to deflate the traditional British values of restraint and decorum and the associated obsession with class values.

The splendidly daft plot revolves around the fact that the Highland regiment guarding the Khyber Pass (represented by a small wooden gate), known locally as the 'devils in skirts', actually wears underpants beneath their kilts. Sid James and Joan Sims play Lord and Lady Ruff-Diamond, and live up to their name during a polo sequence inspired by Shaw's Pygmalion (and My Fair Lady). In a neat re-write of Eliza Doolittle's remarks at Ascot, Joan Sims, in a mock posh accent, congratulates a player by exclaiming, "He didn't half crack that one, did he not!" While Sid James plays his typical roguish self, forever retiring for a spot of 'Tiffin', at least this time Joan Sims, in her usual role as the put-upon wife, gets a chance to try and even the score with some reciprocal adultery (albeit unsuccessfully).

Location filming took place in May 1968 in North Wales, with Snowdonia standing in for India, the furthest afield the Carry On team ever travelled. The rest was shot back at Pinewood studios, including the film's memorable finale. Taking the British stiff-upper lip to outrageous lengths, James and his guests insist on having a formal evening meal while their home is under heavy attack from the men of the Khasi of the Kalabar, played with relish by Kenneth Williams.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. Anglo-Indian relations (2:15)
2. Private Widdle's underwear (1:58)
3. Sir Sidney and the Khasi (2:11)
4. 'A spot of thunder' (03:16)
Production stills
Drum, The (1938)
Bresslaw, Bernard (1934-1993)
Castle, Roy (1932-1994)
Hawtrey, Charles (1914-1988)
James, Sidney (1913-1976)
Robinson, Cardew (1917-1992)
Roome, Alfred (1908-1997)
Rothwell, Talbot (1916-1981)
Scott, Terry (1927-1994)
Sims, Joan (1930-2001)
Williams, Kenneth (1926-1988)
Carry On
The Carry On Legacy