Film / Don't Lose Your Head

"This could never have happened before the revolution!"
Citizen Camembert

Don't Lose Your Head is a 1966 movie that is the thirteenth installment of the British Carry On film series. It stars series regulars Sid James, Joan Sims, Kenneth Williams, Peter Butterworth, Charles Hawtrey and Jim Dale, along with popular French actress Dany Robin and recurring Carry On member Peter Gilmore.

This film is set in the time of the The French Revolution with allusions to The Scarlet Pimpernel, making this the second film in the series to be an Affectionate Parody that features a lot of Anachronism Stew. The execution of the French aristocrats is going strong under the watchful eye of the smug police chief Citizen Camembert (Williams) and his sidekick Citizen Bidet (Butterworth), until the British merchant Sir Rodney Ffing (James) — calling himself The Black Fingernail — and his sidekick Lord Darcy (Dale) rescue the eccentric Duke de Pommfrit (Hawtrey) from the guillotine.

After being threatened by his superior Citizen Robespierre (Gilmore), Camembert goes undercover with Bidet and his close friend Desiree (Sims) to find the true identity of the Black Fingernail who's been rescuing the rich from their executions. To their delight, they discover a beautiful young woman named Jacqueline (Robin), who has encountered with the villain and was given a locket with his mother's teeth inside as a token of his love for her.

Hilarity Ensues.

Tropes appearing in this film:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Pommfrit is this to Desiree, and it seems that Desiree herself is this to Sir Rodney. Ironically, in the former case, the two end up married in the final scene.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
  • Amusing Injuries:
    • In Calais, Bidet shuts the carriage door in Camembert's face.
    • Later, Pommfrit banging Camembert's finger with a hammer at Ffing House. Sir Rodney finds it very funny, and Darcy can be seen trying to stifle his own laughter.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: Sir Rodney tricks Bidet into thinking Camembert is the Black Fingernail in disguise. When Camembert protests that he's the real thing, Bidet replies "And I'm Madame de Pompadour!"
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: After the window Sir Rodney has entered through turns out to belong to Désirée Dubarry's boudoir:
    Sir Rodney (Black Fingernail): Now, don't start screaming, please.
    Désirée Dubarry: Why, what are you going to do to me?
    Sir Rodney (Black Fingernail): Nothing!
    Désirée Dubarry: Well, that settles it. [screams]
  • Artistic License – History: The aristocrats are all executed facing upwards towards the blade (understandably, since there are quite a lot of conversations had while they're waiting for the blade to drop). In real life they were executed facing down into the basket. The only person who was executed facing up was the real-life Robespierre.
  • Asshole Victim: Camembert and Bidet (though Camembert is the bigger asshole of the two) getting their comeuppance at the end.
  • Banister Slide: Sir Rodney during the climactic fight.
  • Big Fancy House:
    • Ffing House. It has enough space to fit hundreds of French aristocrat refugees.
    • The Chateau Neuf turns out to have belonged to one of Camembert's aristocratic victims, who he purloined it from and now owns himself.
  • Bilingual Bonus
    • Jacqueline is imprisoned in Chateau Neuf in order for the Black Fingernail to be trapped by the police. Translated into English, "Chateau Neuf" is "Castle Nine", or "the ninth castle", so what happened to the other eight? Maybe the police burned them all down to get the aristocrats out.
    • Determined to make sure that Pommfrit faces the guillotine, Camembert threatens that "the 'frit will meet his chips." Although obviously shortening Pommfrit's name, the French word "frites" is "chips" in English, so this is basically a Department of Redundancy Department.
  • Blatant Lies: Camembert saying he wasn't fooled by the Black Fingernail after he posed as an insurance salesman to rescue the Duc de Pommfrit when he quite obviously was.
  • Book Ends: The film starts at the guillotine and in the cases of Camembert and Bidet would end there too were it not for the final scene.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Sir Rodney and Jacqueline talk to the audience, when they first meet. Repeated when Rodney's with Desiree in the Rose garden. And before that, briefly, with Camembert, after he sends Desiree after the Duke to find out info from him, then sends Bidet after her.
  • Brick Joke: The Black Fingernail's disguises. In the penultimate scene it is coupled with an Oh Crap! moment from Camembert and Bidet when they realize just who the executioner is.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: Bidet.
  • Butt Monkey: Camembert, usually when Bidet is around, and Bidet himself.
  • Cartoon Bomb: The smoke bomb used in one of the Black Fingernail's rescues at the start of the film.
  • Chandelier Swing:
    • Sir Rodney, Lord Darcy, and the Duke each do one during the climactic fight scene. The Duke misjudges his swing and goes flying out a window.
    • One of the promotional posters showed Darcy on the chandelier as all the other characters watched on.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The locket. Also most things in the Chateau Neuf, including the bust, the harp and much of the furniture, as well as being subverted with the pistols on the wall.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Le Duc de Pommfrit.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Charles Hawtrey's specialty! The Duc de Pommfrit.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Sir Rodney is always wearing one item of white clothing and he has a white wig. Camembert's signature outfit is nearly all black. No points for guessing who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist. There are exceptions, as sometimes Sir Rodney wears black. After all, he is the Black Fingernail. When he first meets Jacqueline and in the climax he wears both white and black. Camembert does the same before he journeys to England with Bidet and Desiree.
  • Corpsing: Darcy and Sir Rodney after Pommfrit bangs Camembert's finger with the hammer.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Sir Rodney, Lord Darcy and Duc de Pommfrit. With Sir Rodney and Darcy it's just an act. Not so, with Pommfrit.
  • Damsel in Distress: Jacqueline. Near the end, Desiree pretends to be one too.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Camembert and Sir Rodney.
    • Surprisingly, Bidet also has moments of this.
      Landlady: There's nobody here, 'cept me, and I'm just going off.
      Citizen Bidet: She's gone off, if you ask me.
    • Darcy also gets one.
      Citizen Camembert: Do I look like a man who sells funny postcards?
      Sir Rodney (Black Fingernail): Not a bit. Actually, you look more like the chappie on the funny postcard. [chuckles]
      Citizen Camembert: I hardly think that's possible.
      Lord Darcy: That's what I said to Rodney when I saw the postcard.
  • Delirious Misidentification: After Bidet is nearly blown up by the gunpowder in the Chateau Neuf, Camembert asks him if he is all right. Bidet briefly mistakes him for his mother.
  • Door Judo: Bidet attempts to break down the locked door of a room Sir Rodney was hiding in. As he completes his run-up, the door is opened, and he goes straight through the doorway, across the room, and out the window.
  • The Door Slams You:
    • In Calais, Bidet gets out of the coach and shuts the door behind him. Right in Camembert's face.
    • At the Chateau Neuf, Bidet attempts to lock the double doors to prevent Sir Rodney's escape, and is slammed behind one of them as Lord Darcy and the Duke come to Sir Rodney's aid. When he recovers, he tries again, and is slammed behind the other door as the Duke re-enters the fight.
  • Double Entendre: There's at least one in almost every scene. Then again, it is a Carry On film so it wouldn't be the same without it.
  • Double Take:
    • Camembert at the beginning when Bidet alerts him to Malabonce having put the first aristocrat the wrong way round in the guillotine (with his feet in the path of the blade).
    • Camembert after a fair few Double Entendres made by others.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Bidet says that after Camembert has the Black Fingernail in his office disguised as a woman (after they realize it), that if they're quick, they can catch him before he can get out of the city. Offset by the Black Fingernail disguising himself as their coachman to get through the roadblocks.
    • He also brings up the locket at Ffing House and how the Black Fingernail could be capable of anything. Not only is he right, he reminds Camembert about the fact that he had the locket in the first place, giving the latter the idea to trap the Fingernail with it.
  • Exact Words: Sir Rodney tells Desiree that if she helps him rescue Jacqueline, she'll marry the title she wants. However, he never said that title was him. Lampshaded in the final scene, where she ends up married to Pommfrit instead.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Camembert and Bidet fail to notice a few times that some people they come across look the same or not what they're meant to look like, namely when Sir Rodney is in disguise, even when able to clearly see his face. This counts with Darcy and Pommfrit as well when they are dressed as soldiers, up until the scenes in the Chateau Neuf.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Rather odd example. Pommfrit, at Sir Rodney's ball, gives a boastful and completely made up tale of how he escaped from the guillotine, claiming to have killed six or seven guards, single-handed. However, during the climactic final battle, he actually handles himself reasonably well.
  • Fight Scene: The climactic battle is a grab-bag of fight scene tropes including Chairman of the Brawl and lots of Flynning.
  • Flipping the Bird: The Black Fingernail's calling card is a picture of a hand giving the two-finger version, with one fingernail blacked in. A scene early in the film shows that Sir Rodney became the Black Fingernail after hearing that nobody was lifting a finger to save the victims of the Revolution, and resolving that he would lift two.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Camembert says at the beginning that Malabonce will have to go. About fifteen minutes into the film, he does, courtesy of Camembert himself.
    • Robespierre implicitly threatens Camembert twice and Bidet once with the guillotine early on in the film for their seeming incompetence. This very fate befalls the two of them in the penultimate scene.
      Citizen Robespierre: Now, listen, Camembert. I want this Fingernail caught. Do you understand me?
      Citizen Camembert: Yes, Citizen, but the trouble is, I don't know what he looks like. Nobody does!
      Citizen Robespierre: You'd better find out, or nobody will know what you look like!
      Citizen Camembert: Oh, everyone always recognizes me.
      Citizen Robespierre: Without a head?
      Citizen Camembert: [gasps]
      Citizen Robespierre: Now get out of here, and find him!
    • Every time Desiree mentions marriage. In the final scene she is married, albeit to Pommfrit instead of Sir Rodney.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: A lot of it. It is a Carry On film, after all.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Sort of. We only ever the blade of the guillotine falling and Bloodless Carnage, but the second time it happens in the first scene, Camembert's expression says it all.
  • Gratuitous French: A few French phrases are used in the film, mainly "Ouvrez!" ("Open!") and "Mon Dieu!" ("My God!"). Even though most of the characters are born and raised French, some of them don't even know what some of the words mean.
    Citizen Camembert: We'll have to alle!
    Citizen Bidet: "We'll have to" what?
    Citizen Camembert: "Go"!
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Desiree.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Citizen Robespierre.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Darcy.
  • Irony: Sir Rodney rescues numerous French aristocrats from the guillotine, and then kills Camembert and Bidet in the same manner at the end.
  • Is There a Doctor in the House?: Name-dropped by Camembert after Sir Rodney tricks him into killing Malabonce with the guillotine. Immediately after his My God, What Have I Done? moment.
  • Karmic Trickster: The Black Fingernail.
  • Land in the Saddle: Sir Rodney, fleeing Camembert and his men, summons his horse with a whistle and leaps out a window onto its back.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Camembert sending aristocrats to the guillotine, ends up executed the same way at the end. By Sir Rodney, who had earlier rescued numerous aristocrats from being killed in the same manner.
  • Loveable Rogue: As with pretty much any Carry On character played by Sid James.
  • Love at First Sight: Sir Rodney and Jacqueline.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Malabonce. "Mal" is french for "bad" or "evil", and bonce is a term for "head". Very appropriate, given that his job's an executioner.
    • Desiree. She desires to marry a "nice man with a fortune, and a Chateau, and a title." She is also the object of Pommfrit's desire and desires to be with Sir Rodney. In the end, she does get married, but not to Sir Rodney.
    • Camembert as "the big cheese".
    • Finally Robespierre, the only genuine figure from the time in the film.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Three of Camembert's guards, when Sir Rodney, Lord Darcy, and the Duke are rescuing Jacqueline.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Camembert about fifteen minutes into the film, after The Black Fingernail has tricked him into killing Malabonce with the guillotine and allowing the Duc de Pommfrit to escape. He even says "What have I done?" after doing it.
    • Near the end, Camembert grabs a pike off the wall and attempts to run Sir Rodney through with it but misses and kills the soldier he was fighting, making a hilarious noise as it happens. Again, he says "What have I done?"
  • Narcissist: Camembert. If it wasn't for his bigheadedness and arrogance, he might have actually succeeded in capturing Sir Rodney. Examples:
    • He's described in the opening voiceover as "the most dreaded man in all France", but, judging by the rest of the film, one can't help but wonder if it's a moniker he assigned to himself.
    • Even when it's blatantly obvious he's caught Jacqueline instead of the Fingernail in disguise, he still can't own up to his mistake and starts trying to clutch at straws, and only stops when Robespierre yells at him to admit his error.
    • He describes himself as "the finest pistol shot in France" and says the Fingernail is probably useless with any weapon, but Sir Rodney manages to get out of being killed by Camembert in their duel by tricking him into walking into the cesspit.
    • When it's revealed he purloined the Chateau Neuf from a now-dead French prince, he simply sneers "Never mind Jacques. I'm all right!"
    • At the end, even when he is about to die, he still doesn't stop this, as he says he's the one who likely drew the crowd all on his own, wondering why on Earth anyone would want to see Bidet's head come off.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: If Sir Rodney hadn't given the locket to Jacqueline, chances are Camembert and Bidet would not have found out who he was. As well as that he was the Black Fingernail. Also subverted, because if he hadn't done this, he wouldn't have been able to find Jacqueline again after she was captured.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • Camembert revealing the plan about the trap to trap Sir Rodney in the Bastille and Jacqueline's whereabouts at the Chateau Neuf, in the case of the former while the good guys were hiding within earshot.
    • Bidet near the end of the scene in the Chateau Neuf. He ran at Sir Rodney with an axe at the end of the climax but hit the pillar next to him instead, allowing the heroes to escape to avoid the inevitable collapse.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted by Bidet's plan to find out a person's true gender, pointing out that the person will have to "go and powder his or her nose" sooner or later.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Although more than two-thirds of the cast are playing French characters, only Jacqueline (played by the French actress Dany Robin) actually speaks with a French accent.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: In Calais, Sir Rodney does this. He first appears on the roof of the coach, then suddenly he's at the door of the building moments later with no explanation as to how he was able to get there.
  • Off with His Head!: Obviously.
  • Oh Crap!:
    • Malabonce, seconds before he realizes Camembert is about to kill him with the guillotine as a result of The Black Fingernail's trick. Shortly followed by a My God, What Have I Done? on Camembert's part.
    • Bidet in the Powder Trail moment mentioned below, seconds before the explosion.
    • Camembert in the Chateau when Bidet accidentally knocks a chunk out of the pillar.
    • Both Camembert and Bidet at the end when it is revealed Sir Rodney is the executioner who is about to finish them both off. Camembert especially.
  • Pepper Sneeze: In a scene directly inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sir Rodney and Lord Darcy prank Camembert with pepper in his snuff. While they're preparing it, the pepper nearly makes Lord Darcy sneeze, and Sir Rodney holds it at bay with an Anti-Sneeze Finger.
  • Pet the Dog: Camembert is most definitely a bad guy, but he still admires Bidet's faithfulness to him, as shown in this line:
    Camembert: Not all are as loyal to me as you are, my faithful Bidet.
  • Powder Trail: Used by Sir Rodney and his allies to set off a couple of powder kegs and blow a door open. Impressively, the trail leads up a flight of steps at one point, and this apparently offers no obstacle to the spark.
  • Punny Name: Sir Rodney Ffing — probably adding to the Fingernail's trademark of showing two fingers to the working class. Also, his name is pronounced "Effing".
    • Pommfrit in English (directly translated) is "potato chips".
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Darcy, along working with Sir Rodney.
  • Rule of Three: Bidet is slammed behind both doors of the Chateau Neuf during the climax, and then when he grabs a pistol off the wall, Pommfrit hurls a stone bust at him before he can use it, knocking him out.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: When Sir Rodney reunites with Jacqueline in the Chateau Neuf, Desiree sees them as this. Justified because of how Desiree is herself in love with Sir Rodney and wants him for herself.
  • Smug Snake: Camembert. Kenneth Williams was a legend when it came to playing this sort of antagonist.
  • Surprisingly Good English: All the French characters that are implied to be born and raised in France, manage to have full blown conversations with perfect grammar with all the English characters. Unless, they are speaking French (although you are hearing them in English), but the English characters are really good at talking French...
  • Surreal Theme Tune: The theme song, Don't Lose Your Head, has no lyrics that have anything to do with the characters, however, the song is a guide for the rich merchant to not make a fool out of themselves when they're about to face the guillotine.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Citizen Robespierre towards Camembert, and Camembert towards everyone else.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Camembert, with a healthy dose of Inspector Javert on the side.
  • Tap on the Head: Pommfrit throws a stone bust at Bidet during the fight in the Chateau Neuf, hitting him on the head and knocking him out.
  • Tempting Fate: At the end, facing the penalty of their failure, Camembert and Bidet console themselves with the thought that at least the Fingernail is not there to see it. As soon as they voice the thought, they learn that not only is he there to see them being guillotined, he's operating the guillotine himself.
  • Ten Paces and Turn: The Duel between Camembert and Sir Rodney. They later make it fifteen paces instead of ten. It was a ruse by Sir Rodney to trick Camembert into walking straight into the cesspit.
  • Terrible Trio: Camembert, Bidet and Desiree.
  • Title Drop: This film's title is one of only two in the series not to bear the series title. Nonetheless, it still features when Camembert give the order to "carry on chopping".
  • Tree Buchet: Used by the heroes to get Sir Rodney into the chateau where Jacqueline is being held prisoner.
  • Unfortunate Name: Bidet. Also funny if you know what a bidet is.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: The revelation by Camembert that the woman in his office was actually the Black Fingernail in disguise... and has just kissed him.
  • Window Pain: Several of Camembert's valuable stained glass windows get broken during the climactic fight at his chateau. Also Bidet in Calais.
  • Wrote the Book: Desiree on the Duke: "When it comes to wandering hands, he could write a series of travel books!"

Alternative Title(s): Carry On Pimpernel, Carry On Dont Lose Your Head