Released in 1972, British comedy film, Carry On Matron, was the 23rd in the franchise and the fourth medical comedy. It featured the largest number of the regular Carry On team to date – but for some fans, it was also the lewdest and a step too far for those who preferred the traditional saucy humour.
As the franchise continued into the mid-1970s, the humour changed from the “seaside postcard” jokes that fans adored, becoming gradually became cruder. By the time the series of Carry On films ended in 1992, after 34 years and 31 films, the final movies were largely unrecognisable compared with their late 1950s predecessors.
The action in Carry On Matron is set in Finisham Maternity Hospital, where a gang of crooks is planning to steal a haul of contraceptive pills and sell them on the black market overseas.
This means one of the gang must disguise himself as a female student nurse to infiltrate the hospital – one of the key elements of the plot.
Unluckily for the thieves, the registrar Sir Bernard Cutting (Kenneth Williams) and matron (Hattie Jacques) are forever vigilant, determined to keep their patients and female nurses safe.
There’s also a sub-plot in which Sir Bernard has taken a fancy to matron – an unusual twist in the Carry On formula, since it’s often Hattie Jacques’ character who has unrequited love for Kenneth Williams’ character.
The earlier medical films in the franchise were Carry On Nurse in 1959, Carry On Doctor in 1967 and Carry On Again Doctor in 1969.
Gang leader Sid Carter (Sid James) drags his honest son, Cyril (Kenneth Cope) into the hospital robbery plan. Cyril doesn’t really want to get involved, but his dad emotionally blackmails him.
However, the unfortunate Cyril feels even less enthusiastic when he has to dress up as a female nurse to enter the hospital – especially when he suffers the amorous attentions of Dr Prodd (Terry Scott), who fancies himself as a ladies’ man.
Things become more complicated when Cyril has to share a room with glamorous young nurse Susan Ball (Barbara Windsor), as he falls for her, but can’t reveal he’s a man.
Hattie Jacques is perfect as the strait-laced, super-efficient matron, who glides around the hospital and rules it with a rod of iron, and as her nemesis, Kenneth Williams’ character becomes convinced he’s transitioning into a woman.
After Sir Bernard undergoes a counselling session with the eccentric Dr Goode (Charles Hawtrey), he leaves the room convinced he’s in love with matron and begins to pursue her in earnest. Matron, however, is more interested in running the hospital and Sir Bernard is thwarted in his advances.
Amorous Dr Prodd has even less success when he tries his luck with new “nurse” Cyril – he’s knocked across the room by the muscular gang member.
Photo Credit: sixthland
Among the patients is heavily-pregnant Mrs Tidey (Joan Sims) who’s quite happy to sit in her hospital bed eating all day, with no sign of giving birth to her overdue baby, while her hen-pecked husband (Kenneth Connor) is left hanging around the waiting room, with no sign of the happy event on the horizon.
Meanwhile, Jane Darling (Valerie Leon) goes into labour in an ambulance and Cyril has no choice other than to help her give birth to triplets! He has no medical knowledge whatsoever, but manages to guide the actress through the birth and has his photo in all the papers, as he’s hailed a hero.
This almost leads to his downfall, as it’s revealed the “nurse” is really a man, and not even a member of staff. However, he’s allowed to go free when the hospital staff realise it would cause them more trouble if the papers got hold of what had really happened.
Although the innuendo and slapstick of Carry On Matron is great for a comedy film, in reality, any hospital run like Finisham Maternity Hospital would be a danger to the staff and patients and would probably be shut down! Hospital equipment must be safe and reliable, and the environment should remain sterile.
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