Film: Don't Lose Your Head

The thirteenth film in the Carry On series and one of the only two installments in the franchise to have not had the Phrase "Carry On" in its title during its original release, the other being Follow That Camel.

Set around the French revolution, the film is a spoof of The Scarlet Pimpernel, with Sid James leading the way as The Black Fingernail. Leading the villains is Kenneth Williams as Robespierre's chief of secret police, overly pompous Citizen Camembert.

The cast includes:

  • Sid James as Sir Rodney Ffing (with two "F"'s), AKA The Black Fingernail.
  • Kenneth Williams as Citizen Camembert
  • Peter Butterworth as Citizen Bidet
  • Jim Dale as Lord Darcy de Pue
  • Charles Hawtrey as The Duke de Pommfrit
  • Joan Sims as Desiree
  • Dany Robin as Jacqueline
  • Peter Gilmore as Citizen Robespierre

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.
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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: Now, don't start screaming, please.
    Désirée: Why, what are you going to do to me?
    Sir Rodney: Nothing!
    Désirée: 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.
  • Banister Slide: Sir Rodney during the climactic fight.
  • Bilingual Bonus: A few French phrases are used in the film, mainly "Ouvrez!" ("Open!") and "Mon Dieu!" ("My God!").
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: 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 after Pommfrit bangs Camembert's finger with the hammer.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Sir Rodney, Lord Darcy and Duc de Pommfrit. With 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Robespierre: Now, listen, Camembert. I want this Fingernail caught. Do you understand me?
    Camembert: Yes, Citizen, but the trouble is, I don't know what he looks like. Nobody does!
    Robespierre: You'd better find out, or nobody will know what you look like!
    Camembert: Oh, everyone always recognizes me.
    Robespierre: Without a head?
    Camembert: [gasps]
    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.
  • High Heel-Face Turn: Desiree.
  • Hyper Competent Sidekick: Darcy.
  • 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.
  • Let's Get Dangerous
  • Loveable Rogue: As with pretty much any Carry On character played by Sid James.
  • Love at First Sight: Sir Rodney and Jacqueline.
  • Meaningful Name: Quite a few.
    • Malabonce. "Mal" is french for bad or evil and bonce is a term for head. Very appropriate, give his job as 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, 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?"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. He first appears on the roof of the coach, then suddenly at the door 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.
    • Narrowly averted with Bidet in the Powder Trail moment mentioned below.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Smug Snake: Camembert. Kenneth Williams was a legend when it came to playing this sort of antagonist.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!"