Twice Round the Daffodils Review
Ring for Catty first appeared on the stage during the mid-fifties. Co-written by the actor Patrick Cargill and Jack Searle, the play toured parts of the UK and appeared on the West End with Patrick McGoohan occupying one of the lead roles. Its biggest claim to fame, however, was as the inspiration to the second in the Carry On series, Carry On Nurse. The film was “based on an idea by” Cargill and Searle, according to the credits; their play was nothing more than the template. It offered up a means of getting various character types into a hospital setting, plus some light romance to ensure a little structure. Much of the humour - in the soon-to-be-typical Carry On vein - was provided by screenwriter Norman Hudis.
Three years later, by which point the Carry On was onto its sixth film, Hudis returned to Ring for Catty for Twice Round the Daffodils. So too did Carry On Nurse director Gerald Thomas, producer Peter Rogers, not to mention the composer, the costume designer, the art director and so on. In order to capitalise on the connections - and the presence of Kenneth Williams and Joan Sims - the distributors added the tagline, “What a Carry On!” Many years later Warner Brothers did the exact same thing for a VHS release pairing the film with another non-Carry On from the team, Nurse on Wheels. Whilst the association makes commercial sense, it can be misleading.
Twice Round the Daffodils, like Ring for Catty, is set in a sanatorium and centres around a group of long-term patients. They all come from different walks of life - we have a miner, a military man, a teenager and so forth - and they are each suffering from TB. Hardly the circumstances for some knockabout Carry On shenanigans. Instead this is the place for the occasional dose of black humour, a bit of gentle comedy and a touch of seriousness here and there. We still get Kenneth Williams glowering, Lance Percival mugging and Jill Ireland in her undies, though never as the main event. The interest in Twice Round the Daffodils comes not from the similarities to the Carry On series, but the divergences.
When placed alongside the 31 official features, plus the television series, Christmas specials and stage plays, it’s something of a welcome sight to find a film that looks like a Carry On but isn’t. There’s a familiarity to the franchise, an instant recognition and perhaps even a certain cosiness. Under such circumstances the more serious elements of Twice Round the Daffodils cannot help but stand out. Donald Houston makes the biggest impact. He plays a Welsh miner who questions his masculinity and even contemplates suicide now that there’s a possibility he’ll no longer be able to work down the pit. Potential lung disease in UK miners is hardly an invitation for comedy and the scenes between Houston and his onscreen wife, Mary Powell, are really quite touching. In fact all of the women (barring the battle-axe matron who’s barely glimpsed) are treated with sensitivity. The film even raises the question of how a marriage can last when the husband is stuck in a sanatorium for the best part of a year, or more. For the sake of balance we also get young love and plenty of young nurses - Juliet Mills as Catty, Nanette Newman, Sheila Hancock and a half-dressed Jill Ireland.
Not that Twice Round the Daffodils could be accused for getting too sombre. The film is more often sweet than sternly serious and as such the comedy sits much easier. There’s still room for Percival to slip on a frying pan and cause Ireland to flash her knickers once more without there ever being a clash of interests. Indeed, were Twice Round the Daffodils to be solely concerned with the more important issues then you would no doubt dismiss it as being too sentimental or too slight. But in such a context, especially one that so greatly resembles a Carry On, it works perfectly. Never too silly, never too straight-faced, the film instead makes for a thoroughly pleasant - and thoroughly entertaining - experience.
No extras, but a pleasing presentation from StudioCanal. Twice Around the Daffodils arrives onto disc at long last in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio (anamorphically enhanced) and taken from a print that’s in mostly good nick. There are moderate instances of damage from time to time - most often during scene transitions - though nothing to distract. Contrast levels are excellent and the detail is very good. At times we may wish that the image was a little bit sharper, but again this is hardly a cause for concern. The original mono soundtrack is in much the same shape and comes with optional English subtitles for the hard of hearing.