This was Carry On...'s take on the movie Cleopatra, with a fraction of its budget. It was released in late 1964, and is considered one of the best Carry On films (along with Carry On Camping and Carry On... Up the Khyber) out of the entire franchise. It stars series regulars Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Connor and Jim Dale, and uses the old sets from the 20th Century Fox film. This film probably made more at the box office than the film it's parodying.
The movie was the tenth made in the Carry On series, during the "heydays" of the franchise, according to many fans. It takes some references from William Shakespeare's tragedies Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, as well as a few other quotes from his other plays. This film also contains a lot of Anachronism Stew, mostly to fit in with comedic tone of the series.
Carry On Cleo begins in Ancient Britain, in which a group of Stone Age citizens are enslaved by the Roman army. Two members of the capture are Horsa (Dale) and Hengist Pod (Connor), two neighbors that have just acknowledged each other minutes before.
After three years of settling down and conquering the British Isles, the exhausted Julius Caesar (Williams) and his army general Marc Antony (James) return to Rome, to be greeted by an angry crowd of citizens and Caesar's annoyed wife Calpurnia (Sims). Because of sheer stupidity, Ancient Rome becomes a part of a war between Ptolemy and Cleopatra, so Marc is sent to kill them both. After one sight of the beauty of Cleopatra (Amanda Barrie) coming out of her asses' milk bath and wrapping herself up in her dressing gown, he decides to not kill her and hatches a plan to end Caesar's reign.
Meanwhile, Horsa and Pod are bought at an auction by a battle-axed woman who lusts over their looks, so they decide to escape and hide in a temple for virginal women and eunuchs. Caesar, who is constantly tortured by Seneca's (Hawtrey) horoscope, visits the temple to get an accurate reading, followed by his mooks, who have been told to have him killed. In the conflict, the bodyguards are killed, Horsa escapes, and the confused Hengist is mistaken as the killer. Overcome with relief, Julius makes him his new Commandant and personal bodyguard.
Now Antony and Cleopatra's plan is ready to commence, giving Antony the excuse to have Caesar visit Egypt and discuss politics. The paranoid Caesar takes Commandant Pod along with him, grateful that he is far away from his wife yet again. Mutiny takes place on the ship, and Caesar's cabin is surrounded by sailors. This plan fails, much to Antony's annoyance, and the group arrives in Egypt. When waiting in his guestroom for further instructions, Caesar meets an oracle that shows him Cleo's actual intentions, which calls for a plan of their own for Caesar to find out what happens after the cliffhanger.
Tropes in the film:
- Accidental Art: The case of Hengist, who cuts off Venus de Milo's arms.
- Accidental Unfortunate Gesture: Julius signals "two" with his fingers, with his hand inverted to Sosages. He nearly throws him off the balcony.
- Adorkable: Hengist Pod. Then again, many of Kenneth Connor's Carry On roles are.
- Affectionate Nickname:
- Julius has "Julie" used by Marc, and he calls him "Tony".
- Cleopatra calls Marc "Marky".
- Affectionate Parody: Of Cleopatra.
- Agony of the Feet: The scene with the messenger ends with Caesar getting two stone tables dropped on his feet. Which had already been in pain to begin with due to gout.
- All Women Are Lustful:
- Julius' angry wife Calpurnia is rather annoyed that her husband was away from home for three years, and fears that it's because she's probably not desirable to him anymore. When she finally gets a chance, Julius has hired a bodyguard to watch over them as they sleep, and she's not really happy about it.
- The women held in the vestal temple. When Horsa and Hengist sneak into their room, they immediately treat them like kings.
- Ambiguously Gay:
- Anachronism Stew:
- Hengist mentions that his mother was eaten by a dinosaur. Dinosaurs were long extinct by the time humans evolved.
- Ancient Rome was thousands of years after the Stone Age period, yet the British Isles are stuck in this time frame. On top of that, the Stone Age people have contact with Boudicca, whose army is apparently filling the role as the British Army in this universe, who was from the Celtic era.
- On top of this, Hengist and Horsa were, according to legend, Jutish chieftains who arrived in England in, at the earliest, 447 AD, during the reign of Vortigern, over three and a half decades after Rome had abandoned Britain, not within three years of conquering it!
- Julius and Marc talk about the natives they've just enslaved moaning about "tea" and "Crum-pet"s, wondering whether they're gods that the British pray to.
- Hengist creating a Venus de Milo by accidentally cutting off Venus' arms pretending to reenact his fight with the bodyguards.
- Awful Wedded Life: After being abandoned for three years by her husband, Calpurnia is hoping that Julius' return will lead to a romantic evening, but it is constantly interrupted by either his interest in something else or Hengist guarding their bedroom.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: As with many Sid James characters, Marc just assumes that Cleopatra is the typical Straw Feminist who is trying to rule the empire because she wants to get back at men for not finding her desirable. The moment he sees her beauty, he immediately decides to betray the Roman Army.
- Big Guy, Little Guy: The tall Horsa to the short Hengist.
- Black Comedy:
- The soothsayer's premonition of Julius' death.
- Julius' actual murder in the Senate. The politicians line up silently and take turns stabbing him as if they're checking in at punch clock.
- Blood on the Debate Floor: Much like history, Caesar is murdered by his government when he returns home from successfully defeating Cleopatra.
- Bodyguard Betrayal: Caesar's head bodyguard, Bilius, attempts to kill him 'for the good of Rome' to his startled surprise. Luckily the attempt is foiled by Horsa, while Hengist gets the credit.
- Bowdlerisation: When aired on British daytime TV, like many Carry On movies, this one is heavily edited with Double Entendre, Accidental/Innocent Innuendo and suggestive collisions taken out.
- Brick Joke: Near the beginning, Seneca the seer tells Julius "Beware the ides of March" but gets ignored. Sure enough, near the end, he gets killed and a smug Seneca goes "Told you so".
- Bungling Inventor: Hengist, who is trying to invent the wheel, but has only managed to make a wagon with squares attached to them.
- Cassandra Truth: Seneca keeps making dramatic predictions which get ignored by Julius. Played for Laughs because Caesar regards him as a fool, but then takes it seriously when he sees a vision of himself stabbed in the chest.
- Chick Magnet: Horsa. Hengist's wife flirts with him once she finds out that he's their new neighbor, even though her oblivious husband is in earshot.
- Christmas Cake: Calpurnia. It can also be inferred that she believes her husband thinks so too, which is why he decided to stay in the British Isles for three years without attempting to contact her.
- The Comically Serious: Sosages, doubling as a Silent Snarker.
- Comically Missing the Point: During their plan to kill Caesar, Cleopatra gives Marc Antony a poisonious asp, stating that one bite can kill a man. Marc proceeds to bite the poor thing's head off, and complains about the taste.
- Demoted to Extra: Despite being one of the main characters in Julius Caesar, Brutus hardly gets any screen time, to the point of the viewer questioning whether he's actually there.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: Hengist is shown as a weakling in the movie, yet manages to break Cleopatra's bed in two in his drunken state when he jumps on it.
- Dirty Old Man:
- Seneca, who lies in the bath most of the time with many attractive female servants.
- Marc, who betrays the army in order to get on the "good side" of Cleopatra.
- The Dreaded: How Julius uses Hengist, relying on his false reputation to keep the Senate and others in line. Only Antony seems to see through it...
- Epic Movie: The movie is a parody of the epic Cleopatra movie that starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Apparently, this parody did better than the original in the UK box office.
- Et Tu, Brute?:
- Ironically attempted to be defied by Julius when he sees himself with a dagger in his chest in the soothsayer's vision. It isn't until it's too late that he discovers that Marc and Cleopatra have teamed up to kill him and Hengist.
- The final stab is from Brutus in the senate.
- Faction Motto: "Nihil expector in omnibus." note
- Femme Fatale: Cleopatra, who plots murder and is a keen manipulator. It's unclear however whether Cleopatra actually likes Antony or just wants to rule both Rome and Egypt. Events at the end of the film imply the former, as they're still together despite the plan failing.
- Fortune Teller: Jon Pertwee as the soothsayer.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Well, it is a Carry On movie, after all.
- When Bilius draws his sword, Julius demands to know "what [is he] doing with [his] thing". Then much later, he tells a nervous Hengist to "stop playing with your thing".
- This moment:Marc Antony: There must be some way we can get rid of [Julius]!
Cleopatra: I have a poisonous asp.
Marc Antony: [looking at her body up and down] ... I wouldn't say that.
Cleopatra: No I have! Look...
- An annoyed Calpurnia mouths angrily at Hengist once she finds him hiding in the bedroom.
- Marc's first appearance in the movie is a dramatic ride through the rainy British Isles, to which he exclaims disgustedly, "What a COUNT-ry!!"
- When talking to Cleopatra's mute bodyguard, Julius signals "two" with his middle and index finger on his hand, but inverted. The bodyguard is immediately offended, charges across the room and picks him up, as if he's about to throw him off the balcony. The rest of the guests grab the bodyguard and order him to put the emperor down.
- During the two cavemen neighbor's introductions:Horsa: I'm Horsa, son of Æthelred.
Hengist: Ooh — not Æthelred the Unready?
Horsa: Oh no. My dad was always ready — at least, that's what mum said.
- When the Romans were in cold, rainy British Isles:Bilius: Caesar, there is a messenger here without.Julius Caesar: I'm not surprised, if we stay here much longer we'll all be without.
- When Marc and the Roman Army arrive at Hengist's village:Marc Antony: What do they call this place?
Billius: Cocko Cocka Coco.
Marc Antony: [scoffs] What a mouthful.
- Marc makes Ptolomy and Cleopatra swap positions in royalty because "she'd make a better Queen than he would!"
- The Ghost: Ptolomy never appears in the story, and is mentioned by Cleopatra and Marc Antony a lot.
- Gossipy Hens: Julius, implied.Brutus: The senate are worried about matters in the east, the affairs involving Ptolemy and Cleopatra.Julius Caesar: [coos] Are they having an affair? Oh, do tell!
- Have a Gay Old Time: And given the Reality Subtext, this trope is practically lampshaded.Julius Caesar: [groans] ...Oh, I do feel queer.
- Henpecked Husband:
- Julius is at the mercy of his wife Calpurnia.
- Hengist to Senna.
- Historical-Domain Character:
- Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Marc Antony.
- Hengist and Horsa were the names of Germanic warriors from the 5th century, who conquered parts of Britain.
- How You Say: Marc finds Julius trying to heal himself from a cold he caught from the bad weather in Britain.Mark Antony: Julie! I caught you with your toga up!Julius Caesar: Oh yes, I'm sorry I've caught something, one of these local things I can't seem to shake off. It's called "A Stinking Cold".
- "I Know What We Can Do" Cut: When the slaves on the ship to Egypt attack the guards and escape, everyone frets over who will steer the ship. Next thing the viewer knows, Antony, Julie and Hengist are sitting in the galley rowing with the oars.Julius Caesar: Emperor of Rome, I am, and what am I doing? Paddling myself across the ocean!
- Incredibly Lame Pun:Marc Antony: [describing Cleopatra's beauty] ... she's like a siren.
Julius Caesar: Hope she don't go off.
- Insane Troll Logic: Why Hengist Pod makes square wheels.Hengist: The trouble with [round wheels] is, you see, that if you stop on a hill, they start to roll backwards. And [square wheels] won't...
- Inventing the Wheel: Justified because it's Hengist's goal to make money from creating something that he'd seen on a Roman's cart.
- Lovable Coward: Caesar and Hengist.
- Made a Slave: Horsa and Hengist. When Hengist is mistaken for a professional soldier slayer, Julius thinks that it would be a waste of time to throw him into the gladiator industry. Meanwhile, Horsa is captured again and forced into slavery again.
- Mid-Battle Tea Break: Discussed (and implied to be the British Army's case) by Marc. It's even the page quote of the trope.Marc Antony: You know, I just don't get these Britons; every time we get a good punch-up going, someone behind the line yells "Tea's up!" and they all disappear!
- Mistaken for Badass: Hengist. He is caught with the sword surrounded by wounded unconscious soldiers and made Julius' chief bodyguard.
- Mobile Shrubbery: Seneca hides in a giant pot and wanders to Cleopatra's bedroom to watch whether Julius' plan to stop his murder will work. Marc catches the pot walking into the room from his hiding place under the bed and is rather confused.Marc Antony: Goodness! She must be selling tickets!
- "No" Means "Yes": Hengist is unable to explain to Julius that he didn't slaughter any of the soldiers in the Vestal, and didn't mean to, Caesar is too delighted to listen, making him his bodyguard on the spot.
- Not Now, Kiddo: Much of Seneca's omens are dismissed as this.Julius Caesar: [crossly] Oh, shut up, you silly old FAGGOT!!
- Period Piece
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Invoked and averted, because Hengist was only in the right places at the right time to be seen as this by the other characters.
- Prophecy Twist: Despite successfully managing to defeat Marc and Cleopatra, Caesar is still stabbed to death ... by his own government.
- Punny Name: Sosages, Cleopatra's bodyguard. Lampshaded by Antony.Mark Antony: Oi! Bangers, Sausages — whatever your name is...
- The Queen's Latin: Like Cleopatra, no actor in this movie is Italian or Egyptian. Bit jarring when the actual British characters arrive in the narrative.
- Referenced by...: William Shakespeare: Most of the dialogue contains references from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, with a hybrid of his other famous works (and obviously, the movie Cleopatra).
- Marcius and Spencius are references to the British high street store Marks and Spencer.
- "Beware the Ides of March".
- "Friends, Romans..." "Countrymen?" "I KNOW!!!"
- "Et tu, Brute?"
- A stabbed Caesar in the clairvoyant's premonition moans, "Is this a dagger I see before me? It is! [groans in pain]"
- Upon saying goodbye to his wife, Julius mumbles "Good riddance," under his breath.
- How Cleopatra convinces Marc to murder Caesar is the same way that Lady Macbeth convinced her husband to kill King Duncan by using reverse psychology towards his masculinity.
- Marc's annoyance towards Julius making Hengist the chief bodyguard mirrors Iago's hatred towards Othello, to an extent. He sets it upon himself to try and catch the foreigner out by asking him detailed questions that would need specific answers, putting an uncomfortable Hengist on the spot.
- Running Gag: Julius Caesar begins a speech with "Friends! Romans!" and is then interrupted by people who think he's forgotten the rest of the introduction with "Countrymen?", to which Julius replies angrily "I KNOW!!" They're even his final lines when he is stabbed.
- During his speech to the senate, Caesar lapses into a Winston Churchill impression.
- When Hengist is found delirious after the assassin ambush, he collapses into Marc's arms unconscious making Marc laugh "What a carve up!", which could be a reference to the horror comedy film What a Carve Up! that was released about the same time as this movie, which featured the two actors as the leading duo.
- "Infamy, infamy — they've all got it in for me!" is a reference to a British radio show called Take It From Here, but it's practically impossible to find someone who knows that.
- The narrator says that Julius will tell the Senate about his idea of "the winds of change", which is a reference to a speech Prime Minister Harold Macmillan made in 1961.
- Caesar is apparently emperor of Rome because he failed the XI plus exam.
- Seneca can be heard singing a parody of "Home Sweet Home" in one scene."Wherever I wander/there's no place like Rome."
- Slippery Skid: In the introduction of Cleo (shown bathing in her asses' milk), an unknown Roman soldier (presumably either Brutus or Antony) marches in, slips on a bar of soap and falls into the bath.
- The Speechless: Cleopatra's bodyguard, since he's mute.
- Unfortunate Name:
- The woman that buys Horsa has the initials "W C", which is what is tattooed near Horsa's elbow. Hengist cannot hold back his giggles.Hengist: I think someone's making a convenience of you!
- Hengist's wife is named Senna; a pretty name — "until I married someone called Pod." (Senna Pod is a laxative.)
- The woman that buys Horsa has the initials "W C", which is what is tattooed near Horsa's elbow. Hengist cannot hold back his giggles.
- Unsuspectingly Soused: Hengist drinks a liquid to calm his nerves as he pretends to be Caesar for Julius' plan. It turns him into an over-confident and horny man who throws Cleopatra onto her bed and launches himself on top, breaking the bed in two.
- Visual Pun: The Roman messenger that sends messages between Britain and Rome is rather hot-footed — you can tell because steam is coming out of his sandals.
- Zettai Ryouiki: The less said about the men, the better.