I picked up a DVD of the Carry On Christmas TV Specials. Unusual, at least for a rather more obscure British program, is that the DVD is produced in the US by Image. There must be a small gang of Carry On fans out there but I haven't ever meet anyone who even knows much about the film series except for Neil Gaiman. I grew up with the Carry On films in Canada. The movies were in the theaters and on TV. I went to see some of them in the theater in the 1970s. The DVD has all four of the Christmas Specials which first aired in 1969, 1970, 1972 and 1973.
Peter Rogers was the producer of the Carry On film series and he produced these TV specials for Thames Television. Early in his career he was the producer of the Roger Moore Ivanhoe TV series. Before that Peter produced 20 films and one of the later ones was Carry On Sergeant. After that hit he produced 30 more Carry On films and some related TV. He still managed to produce many other non Carry On films over the years. Peter appears at the start of each Special with a short intro. The DVD also has a nice 45 minute Q & A with him. It was filmed at Pinewood Studios in 1999 and he brought his dog. The other extra is Carry On Christmas Memories and it's got Peter reminiscing about the Christmas Specials.
Carry on Christmas 1969
The first special was produced after Carry On Up The Jungle and it's pretty much the same cast. It's script is by Talbot Rothwell who wrote a lot of the Carry On films. The TV special is based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It's got Sid James as Scrooge and Charles Hawtrey as the Ghost of Christmas Present. I'm a big fan of both Sid and Charles. I'll watch just about anything with them in it. The rest of the cast play multiple characters. When the ghosts come to tell Scrooge what problems his villainous ways cause they show him dreams that are way different than the ones in the Dicken's story.
In the Christmas Past segment Dr Frank N Stein was looking to Scrooge for a loan to finish his monster. Barbara Windsor plays the monster and Bernard Bresslaw her mate.
In Christmas Present Robert Browning wanted a loan from Scrooge to elope with Elizabeth Barrett. Frankie Howerd plays Robert Browning and Hattie Jacques plays Elizabeth Barrett. I like Frankie a whole lot but I understand he's not to everyone's taste. I recently bought several British DVDs to continue enjoying his work.
Christmas Future tells the story of Cinderella. Barbara Windsor plays Cinderella, Frankie Howerd plays the fairy godmother, and Charles Hawtrey plays Buttons.
It's pretty much panto on TV and gaudy costumes are part of panto. You can see some panto on YouTube though much of it amateur. Here's a professional Cinderella Panto with Frank Skinner as Buttons. Peter Rogers is pretty much unashamed about the type of comedy that fueled the Carry On films and the long term popularity seems to indicate that people, other than me, like it too.
Carry on Again Christmas 1970
The second special was written by Sid Colin and Dave Freeman. Sid had co-written Carry On Spying with Talbot Rothwell and Dave would go on to script Carry On Behind and several episodes of the Carry On Laughing TV series plus the 1992 film Carry On Columbus.
The special is loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island with Sid James as Long John Sil, Barbara Windsor as Jim Hawkins, Charles Hawtrey as Old Blind Pew and Terry Scott as Squire Treyhornay.
The special was shot in color but broadcast in black and white because of a technician strike at Thames Television. It resulted in the broadcast of all their Christmas shows that year in black and white. Sadly no one thought to keep the color version.
Carry on Christmas or Carry On Stuffing 1972
Talbot Rothwell started the script for the 3rd special, but got ill, and Dave Freeman was brought in to complete it. There's no Sid James this special and Charles Hawtrey thought he might get top billing. Peter Rogers didn't see that and Charles pulled out of the production.
The setting is an 18th century dinner party where the guests tell stories to entertain each other. One of the stories is an Adam and Eve thing with Barbara Windsor. There were a couple of madrigals.
There's a haunted house story with Hattie Jacques and Joan Sims. The last story is a weird version of Aladdin set in Peking with Barbara Windsor as Aladdin.
Carry On Christmas 1973
Talbot Rothwell was back with the script for the last of the Christmas Specials. Sid James returns as a department store Father Christmas who has fantasies while on the job.
One's set in 2001 BC, another in some Elizabethan time, and a third in WWI.
There's some ballet and a sketch about Robin Hood. Sid finally finishes his day only to get a ticket for illegally parking his sled and reindeer.
All the shows are pretty silly, the first two are my favorites of the lot.
In 1983 there was a special called Carry On Laughing's Christmas Classics with Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor as hosts. They introduce some funniest moments from the later Carry On films. It's not on this DVD.