Classic Cars on Film: Carry on Screaming!

Cars don't need to be on fire or sideways through cardboard boxes to make an impact, as 1966's Carry On Screaming can prove.

This may be stating the completely obvious, but a film does not have to trumpet a budget running into millions of pounds or a shooting schedule of several months for its automotive content to impact on the viewer. American Graffiti is a case in point, as is Goodbye Pork Pie and Soft Top, Hard Shoulder.

However, today viewers can delve into a plethora of 'oldies' pre-dating all of the above. In fact, many of us remain drawn to a series of pictures made on an approximate budget of 10/6d in six weeks flat – and the most effective of which is a 1966 entry featuring a 1904 Brushmobile 6 hp.

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Screaming is one of the few pictures in Carry On series in which the art direction is more than rudimentary, and as this was a spoof of Hammer Horror films, there is a 'period' setting. True, few houses in Edwardian England would have boasted a very 1960s glass front door, and it would have been very unlikely for a Detective Sergeant to own a motor car in the first place, but the props serve to create a genuine atmosphere – and it is here that the Edwardian cars play a part.

The main vehicle, a Brushmobile, was made under licence by Vauxhall and borrowed for the picture from what was then The Montagu Museum. Here are the impressions of the great Bolster, writing in Motor Sport in 1961:

'The 3-speed gearbox in a sort of metal coffin from which emerges the long greasy central driving chain; the front bonnet merely conceals a petrol tank containing ample fuel for a non-stop run.

'This virtually stationary engine design has an automatic inlet valve, positively-closed exhaust valve and trembler-coil ignition from a battery on the off-side running-board. It runs at some 600 rpm on full-spark and retarding the spark by means of a small lever on the wooden steering wheel reduces the speed to zero.'

The Museum also provided a 1906 Renault 20/30CV Limousine and a 1908 Unic 12/14 hp taxi-cab, but it is the Brushmobile that the viewers tend to remember. It looks as though Harry H Corbett has taken the wheel in some sequences, notably when Corbett’s Detective-Sergeant Bung departs the 'Police Station' (in reality Leonards Road, Windsor), although he would not have been obliged to drive for a great distance. In the great Carry On tradition, the production rarely strayed far from the grounds of Pinewood Studios in England.

And Screaming, apart from the motor cars and the amazingly catchy theme song - will always be remembered for the late great Fenella Fielding. Brushmobiles and moments such as below, what more could one possibly demand from a film?

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