AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 85 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Four English soldiers: Pvt. Finch, Sgt. Bolter, Pvt. Ackroyd, and their commanding officer, Second Lt. Brown, have been assigned to set up an observation post on a remote island ahead of the Allied invasion of Italy, though once there they pick up on Radio Cairo that Sicily has already been invaded. When Finch decides to go skinny-dipping in the Adriatic, he run into a like-minded German soldier, Sgt. Schmidt, also naked. It seems that a German contingent, also consisting of five people, is also on the island. Their commanding officer proposes a truce, and that the two sides agree that whichever army returns to the island in force, the other side will surrender to it….
Four soldiers set off in a dingy for an island and somebody forgets to untie it from the ship while somebody else forgets the oars. Yes, it’s another army comedy from Hammer featuring misfit, bumbling soldiers which is surprisingly similar to the later, though far superior, None But The Brave. Based on a one-off radio play by Michael Corston and Ronald Holroyd, and originally entitled Carry On Chaps until the first in the Carry On series Carry On Sergeant was released, this one appears to have been made really cheaply indeed, though it doesn’t really matter. For the most part, it’s more gently amusing than uproariously funny, but it keeps ticking along in a pleasant fashion and has an appealing anti-war message. Three of the British and three of the Germans agree with live in harmony and it’s nice to see them amiably pair off, such as Ackroyd’s attempt at a decent meal for the men [“lancashire hotpot come chop suey”] actually impressing experienced chef Meister, and Finch, who has an interest in archaeology, helping amateur paleaotologist Voss with some Pterodactyl fossils he’s found. However, traditional soldiers Bolter and Meister oppose the truce and fight one another in a rather amateurish brawl, though it’s obviously done with no stuntmen.
Of course, as can be gathered from looking at the poster which would be seen as very sexist if it appeared today, a pretty young woman washes ashore with predictable reactions from the men, though it’s over two thirds of the way through the movie and there isn’t time to develop the idea of conflict ensuring over the female, leaving one with the impression that the character was shoehorned after the script had been finished. Nadja Regin, who later appeared in small parts in From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, does a distant nude skinny dipping scene. The cast are generally appealing though Dennis Price needn’t have bothered with his German accent and George Cole, while he does cause a few chuckles, often gets tiresome with his constant clumsiness. Don’t Panic Chaps never really gets as funny as you want it to – in fact it seems to get progressively funny as it goes on – while it also seem to have trouble ending things in an decent fashion, as if the scriptwriters just gave up or ran out of time even though it took three writers [Michael Corston, Jack Davies, Ronald Holroyd] to script the thing. Nonetheless, it’s hard to really dislike a harmless piece of fluff like this with such a good message.