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Carry On Up the Khyber

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Carry On Up the Khyber
Carry On up the Khyber.jpg
Original UK quad poster by Renato Fratini
Directed byGerald Thomas
Written byTalbot Rothwell
Produced byPeter Rogers
StarringSid James
Kenneth Williams
Charles Hawtrey
Roy Castle
Joan Sims
Angela Douglas
Terry Scott
Bernard Bresslaw
Peter Butterworth
CinematographyErnest Steward
Edited byAlfred Roome
Music byEric Rogers
Distributed byThe Rank Organisation
Release date
  • 28 November 1968 (1968-11-28)
Running time
88 minutes[1][2]
CountryUnited Kingdom

Carry On Up the Khyber is a 1968 British comedy film, the 16th in the series of 31 Carry On films (1958–1992).[4] It stars Carry On regulars Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Bernard Bresslaw and Peter Butterworth. It is the second of two Carry On film appearances by Wanda Ventham; and Roy Castle makes his only Carry On appearance, in the romantic male lead part usually played by Jim Dale.[5]

Angela Douglas makes her fourth and final appearance in the series. Terry Scott returned to the series after his minor role in the first film of the series, Carry On Sergeant a decade earlier. The film is, in part, a spoof of Kiplingesque movies and television series about life in the British Raj, both contemporary and from earlier, Hollywood, periods. The title is a play on words in the risqué Carry On tradition, with "Khyber" (short for "Khyber Pass") being rhyming slang for "arse".[6] The film was followed by Carry On Camping 1969.

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Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond (Sid James) is Queen Victoria's Governor in the Indian province of Kalabar near the Khyber Pass. The province is defended by the feared 3rd Foot and Mouth Regiment, who are said to not wear anything under their kilts. When a soldier, the inept Private Widdle (Charles Hawtrey), is found wearing underpants after an encounter with the warlord Bungdit Din (Bernard Bresslaw), chief of the warlike Burpa tribe, the Khasi of Kalabar (Kenneth Williams) plans to use this information to incite a rebellion in Kalabar. He aims to dispel the "tough" image of the Devils in Skirts by revealing that, contrary to popular belief, they actually wear underpants underneath their kilts.

A diplomatic operation ensues on the part of the British, who fail to publicly prove that the incident was an aberration. The Governor's wife (Joan Sims), in the hope of luring the Khasi into bed with her, takes a photograph of an inspection in which many of the soldiers present are found wearing underpants, and takes it to him. With this hard evidence in hand, the Khasi would be able to muster a ferocious Afghan invasion force, storm the Khyber Pass and capture India from the British; but Lady Ruff-Diamond insists that he sleep with her before she parts with the photograph. He delays on account of her unattractiveness, eventually taking her away with him to Bungdit Din's palace. Meanwhile, the Khasi's daughter, Princess Jelhi (Angela Douglas), reveals to the British Captain Keene (Roy Castle), with whom she has fallen in love, that the Governor's wife has eloped, and a team is dispatched to ensure the return of both her and the photograph.

Disguised as Afghan generals, the interlopers are brought into the palace and, at the Khasi's suggestion, are introduced to Bungdit Din's sultry concubines. Whilst enjoying the women in the harem, they are unmasked amid a farcical orgy, imprisoned, and scheduled to be executed at sunset alongside the Governor's wife. Princess Jelhi aids their escape by disguising them as dancing girls, but during the entertaining of the Afghan generals, the Khasi, contemptuous of an annoying fakir's performance, demands that he see the dancing girls instead. After their disguises are seen through, the British and the Princess flee, but Lady Ruff-Diamond drops the photograph on leaving the palace through the gardens. The group returns to the Khyber Pass to find its guards massacred and their weapons comically mutilated, in a rare (albeit tainted) moment of poignancy.

All attempts to hold off the advancing Afghan invaders fail miserably, and a hasty retreat is beaten to the Residency. The Governor, meanwhile, has been entertaining, in numerical order, the Khasi's fifty-one wives, each one of them wishing to "right the wrong" that his own wife and the Khasi himself have supposedly committed against him. After a browbeating from his wife, Sir Sidney calls a crisis meeting regarding the invasion, in which he resolves to "do nothing". A black tie dinner is arranged for that evening. Dinner takes place during a prolonged penultimate scene, with contrapuntal snippets of the Khasi's army demolishing the Residency's exterior, and the officers and ladies ignoring the devastation as they dine amongst themselves. Shells shaking the building and plaster falling into the soup do not interrupt dinner, even when the fakir's severed - but still talking - head is served, courtesy of the Khasi.

Only Brother Belcher fails to display a stiff upper lip, and breaks his calm by panicking. Finally, at Captain Keene's suggestion, the gentlemen walk outside to be greeted by a bloody battle being waged in the courtyard. Still dressed in black tie, Sir Sidney orders the Regiment to form a line and lift their kilts, this time exposing their (implied) lack of underwear. The invading Afghan army is terrified, and retreats at once. The gentlemen walk back inside to resume dinner, whilst Brother Belcher notices the Union flag flown by the governor bearing the slogan I'm Backing Britain and calls them "raving mad".




The screenplay was written by Talbot Rothwell. Peter Rogers had liked Rothwell's writing so much after he had submitted the script for Carry On Jack that he asked him to become the Carry On staff writer; Rothwell wrote a further nineteen Carry On films.[7]

The film's fictional Highland infantry regiment of the British Army was known as the 3rd Foot and Mouth Regiment. It is a regiment of Highlanders, known locally as "the Devils in Skirts" for their tradition of not wearing anything beneath their kilts. The regimental tartans and bonnet badges designed for the unnamed Highland regiment in the 1960 film Tunes of Glory were rented for the production to kit out Carry On Up the Khyber's 3rd Foot and Mouth Regiment.[8] The pith helmets and webbing were borrowed from the 1964 classic war film, Zulu.[9]


The movie was shot between 8 April and 31 May 1968. Interiors were filmed at Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire. Heatherden Hall, the administrative offices of Pinewood Studios, was used as the governor's residence.

A plaque in Llanberis, Wales, commemorates the filming of Carry On Up the Khyber
A plaque in Llanberis, Wales, commemorates the filming of Carry On Up the Khyber

The scenes on the North West Frontier were filmed beneath the summit of Snowdon in North Wales.[10] The lower part of the Watkin Path was used as the Khyber Pass with garrison and border gate.[11] In September 2005, a plaque was unveiled in Snowdonia to mark the spot of where the film was shot.[12]


The film was the second most popular movie at the UK box office in 1969.[13]


Carry On... Up the Khyber is frequently cited as the best entry in the series.[5][14][15][16][17] Colin MacCabe, Professor of English at the University of Exeter, labelled this film (together with Carry On Cleo) as one of the best films of all time.[18]

In 1999, it was placed 99th on the BFI's list of greatest British films ever made.

See also


  1. ^ Ross 1998, p. 77
  2. ^ Rigelsford 1996, p. 163
  3. ^ Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 205.
  4. ^ "Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)". BFI. Archived from the original on 12 July 2012.
  5. ^ a b Angelini, Sergio. "Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)". BFI Screenonline.
  6. ^ "The meaning and origin of the expression: Khyber pass". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  7. ^ Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 389. ISBN 978-1-84854-195-5.
  8. ^ "Tartans Made for the Movies". Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  9. ^ "When Snowdon became Khyber Pass for Carry On film". Daily Post. 13 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Wales hosts Hollywood blockbusters". Visit Wales. Archived from the original on 19 February 2014.
  11. ^ "Where was 'Carry On Up The Khyber' filmed?". British Film Locations.
  12. ^ "Carry On Khyber plaque unveiled". BBC News. 30 September 2005. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  13. ^ "The World's Top Twenty Films". Sunday Times. 27 September 1970. p. 27.
  14. ^ Burton, Alan; Chibnall, Steve (2013). Historical Dictionary of British Cinema. Scarecrow Press. p. 108. ISBN 9780810880269.
  15. ^ Luxford, Albert (2002). Albert J. Luxford, the Gimmick Man: Memoir of a Special Effects Maestro. McFarland. p. 87. ISBN 9781476635446.
  16. ^ Campbell, Mike (2016). Carry On Films: An Introduction to the British Comedy Phenomenon. Oldcastle Books. ISBN 9781904048428.
  17. ^ Hume, Alan; Owen, Gareth (2004). A Life Through the Lens: Memoirs of a Film Cameraman. McFarland. p. 53. ISBN 9780786418039.
  18. ^ MacCabe, Colin (29 January 1999). "Why Carry On Cleo and Carry On Up the Khyber are two of the best films ever". The Guardian.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 April 2023, at 23:03
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