Ballard’s Cinema: Notes for a Retrospective – Carry On Getting It Up (Gerald Thomas 1977)

JG-Ballard-photographed-i-006Following the disastrous performance of Carry on England (Thomas 1976), pulled from cinemas after just three days, producer Peter Rogers decided the long-running series of tepid sex comedies needed a change of direction if it was to survive.

For the 29th instalment, he turned to Jack Trevor Story, then enjoying all the notoriety a weekly Guardian column about his disastrous domestic and romantic entanglements could bring.

An occasional and peripheral figure in the British science fiction New Wave, Story rapidly produced a screenplay parodying Ballard’s High Rise (1975). Despite the scepticism of director Gerald Thomas, Rogers took the plunge, in the hope that they could cash in on the publicity for Nicolas Roeg’s official adaptation, then in production.

Kenneth Williams, in his 25th Carry On, is the only series regular to appear, albeit in little more than an extended cameo. He plays Queen, an effeminate architect presiding over a newly erected but already crumbling apartment building, while struggling to finance further ‘erections’. Elke Sommer, in her second Carry On, plays his perpetually aroused but sexually frustrated wife.

Rogers and Thomas turned to a pair of up-and-coming sex comedy stars for their leading men. Martin Shaw, so effective in LWT’s late-sixties Doctor in the House series, was ideal as the dishy doctor Prang, while Lewis Collins, briefly glimpsed in Norman Cohen’s Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976), proved his perfect foil as the thuggish, proletarian Nobby. The two actors, however, soon fell out.

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Suzanne Danielle, in a role reputedly intended for Mary Millington, plays the unnamed air hostess displaced from Prang’s bed when his sister – Judy Geeson in her second Carry On – appears. Other familiar faces in minor roles and an extended, if utterly innocuous, orgy scene, include Yute Stensgaard, Valerie Leon, Vicki Michelle, Carol Drinkwater and Koo Stark.

Carry On Getting It Up broke even in just one week, which was as long as it lasted in British cinemas before being withdrawn in the face of legal action – but not from the uncredited, and unpaid, Ballard.

Rather, Ernő Goldfinger, apparently unaware that Ballard’s Royal was partly based on him, took umbrage at being depicted as a poor architect and worse heterosexual.

Deciding not to risk a court case, Rogers suppressed the film, and immediately began work on Carry on Emmannuelle, with Kenneth Williams, a handful of series regulars and, in her first named role, Suzanne Danielle.

What – if anything – Ballard made of Carry On Getting It Up remains a mystery. We have been unable to trace any mention of it by him. We are, however, delighted to bring it back to the big screen for the first time since Morph debuted on the telly and Star Wars was a hit.

Other films in the retrospective
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola 1979)
The Drowned World (J. Lee Thompson 1974)
The Drowned World: The Director’s Cut (J. Lee Thompson 2015)
El Dorado (BBC 1992-93; 156 episodes)
Gale Force (Val Guest 1967)
Jodorowsky’s Burning World (Frank Pavich 2013)
Track 12 (Joseph Losey 1967)

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