Carry On Up the Khyber is a 1968 British comedy film, the sixteenth in the series of 31 Carry On films (1958-1992).
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. The Khasi’s daughter 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 moment of (albeit tainted) 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 displays a Union flag bearing the slogan I’m Backing Britain.
- Sid James as Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond.
- Kenneth Williams as The Khasi of Kalabar.
- Charles Hawtrey as Private James Widdle.
- Roy Castle as Captain Keene.
- Joan Sims as Lady Joan Ruff-Diamond.
- Bernard Bresslaw as Bungdit Din.
- Peter Butterworth as Brother Belcher.
- Terry Scott as Sergeant Major MacNutt.
- Angela Douglas as Princess Jelhi.
- Cardew Robinson as The Fakir.
- Peter Gilmore as Private Ginger Hale.
- Julian Holloway as Major Shorthouse.
- Leon Thau as Stinghi.
- Michael Mellinger as Chindi.
- Wanda Ventham as The Khasi’s First Wife.
- Alexandra Dane as Busti.
Filming was between 08 April 1968 and 31 May 1968. Interior shoots were at Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, and exterior shoots were at:
- Scenes on the North West Frontier were filmed beneath the summit of Snowdon in North Wales.
- The lower part of the Watkin Path was used as the Khyber Pass with garrison and border gate.
- In September 2005, a plaque was unveiled in Snowdonia to mark the spot of where the film was shot.
- Governor Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond’s residence was actually Heatherden Hall in Buckinghamshire, on whose estate Pinewood Studios are based.
- 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.
- 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 (1958) 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”.
- The Regiment:
- The 3rd Foot and Mouth Regiment is the fictional Highland infantry regiment of the British Army portrayed in the film.
- It is a regiment of Highlanders, known locally as “the Devils in Skirts” for their tradition of not wearing anything underneath their kilts.
- The detachment at Kalabar is under the command of Captain Keene (played by Roy Castle), with Sergeant-Major MacNutt (played by Terry Scott) as his Second-in-Command.
- The regimental tartans and bonnet badges designed for the Highland regiment in the 1960 film Tunes of Glory were reused by Pinewood’s wardrobe department to kit out Carry On Up the Khyber’s 3rd Foot and Mouth Regiment.
- The film was the second most popular movie at the UK box office in 1969.
- In 1999, it was placed 99th on the BFI’s list of greatest British films ever made.
Carry On Series
- Carry On Admiral (1957).
- Carry On Sergeant (1958).
- Carry On Jack (1964).
- Carry On Cleo (1964).
- Don’t Lose Your Head (1966).
- Carry On Up the Khyber (1968).
- Carry On England (1976).
You can find a full index and overview of the Carry On Franchise here.
Production & Filming Details
- Gerald Thomas.
- Peter Rogers.
- Talbot Rothwell.
- Eric Rogers.
- Ernest Steward.
- Alfred Roome.
- Peter Rogers Productions.
- Rank Organisation.
- Release Date: 28 November 1968.
- Rating: PG.
- Running Time: 88 minutes.
- Country: UK.
- Language: English.