Sophie Farrell’s review published on Letterboxd:
Carry On Cleo is often viewed as one of the very best entries in the Carry On series, with some even naming it as the best Carry On film. Carry On Cleo was one of the first films I had seen from the series and I get quite nostalgic whenever I watch it. Aside from this, Carry On Cleo is just a wonderfully British comedy and a very funny film. It's a film that's always a delight to re-watch.
The film follows Julius Caesar and Mark Antony as they return to Rome from their invasion of Britain, bringing with them a bunch of slaves including Horsa and Hengist. They return to Rome at a time of great unrest with Caesar's popularity hitting rock bottom. This leads to concerns over assassination attempts with many people wanting to get rid of Caesar for the good of Rome. When a power struggle emerges in Egypt, Caesar sends Mark Antony to force Cleopatra to abdicate in favour of Ptolemy. However, this is complicated when Antony becomes besotted with Cleopatra which leads them to form their own plan to get rid of Caesar. Carry On Cleo plays fast and loose with history and those going into this film for the first film should not expect it to be 100% historically accurate. This is a Carry On film after all. Carry On Cleo is a very solid parody of big Hollywood epics, especially the 1963 version of Cleopatra. The script for Carry On Cleo is one of the very best in the entire franchise. The characters are all given something of interest to do and are well rounded. There are also many memorable scenes in the film, including the infamous assassination attempt on Caesar in the temple of Vestra and the scene where Cleopatra and Antony meet for the first time. Carry On Cleo also has a very nice pace which flows very well. The dialogue in Carry On Cleo is some of the best written for the franchise. It has some of the very best jokes and one liners. There are also some very nice word play too. I pretty sure that Carry On Cleo is the only film set in ancient Rome where you will find a slave trading firm named Marcus et Spencius.
The film has a very strong cast, one of the best in the franchise. Kenneth Williams is wonderful as the campest interpretation of Julius Caesar ever committed to film. He's just a joy to watch and gets many great lines, including the film's most famous gag. Sid James is equally wonderful as Mark Antony and is clearly having fun with the role which is really lovely to watch. Jim Dale finally gets promoted to a leading role after having a few small roles in the previous films. He is a perfect fit for the young, leading man role. He also gets a number of really fun scenes. The scene at the slave traders is a particular highlight. Kenneth Connor also makes an appearance as Hengist and is given some interesting things to do. Joan Sims makes her return to the series (hurrah!) as Caesar's wife, marking her transition from the bombshell of the earlier films to the battle axe wife. She is such a scene stealer here. Charles Hawtrey also appears in a fun role as does Jon Pertwee who plays the soothsayer. Pertwee only appears in one scene but really leaves a lasting impression. One of the real selling points of the film is the wonderful Amanda Barrie who stars as Cleopatra. She makes her second appearance in the series and is perfect in the role. Her comedy timing is spot on in this film, making her an absolute delight. She also looks absolutely stunning in this film.
Carry On Cleo gives Gerald Thomas something good to sink his teeth into as a director. His direction here is some of the best he ever did in the series. The big comedy set pieces and the sword fights are wonderfully choreographed and staged. Carry On Cleo is easily the best looking of the Carry On films. He has a much grander scale despite following on with the Carry On tradition of having a small budget. This is probably due to the fact that many of the sets and costumes where left over from the 1963 Cleopatra after they decided to abandon filming in London in favour of moving production to Rome where they built new sets. Carry On Cleo also has some very nice colour cinematography, making it one of the most visually pleasing of the series. Eric Rogers also provides a suitably grand music score for the film. It suits the bigger scale of Carry On Cleo so well and really emphasises the scene which it has been put with.
Overall, Carry On Cleo is one of the finest Carry On films, showcasing the cast and production team at the top of their respective games. There are a few minor flaws but they do not hinder the film massively. Carry On Cleo is blessed with one of the strongest and funniest scripts in the series. It also has some of the best performances of the series, with the returning regulars each doing a wonderful job. Carry On Cleo is always a joy to watch, whether I'm watching the DVD or just happen to come across it being shown on TV. Carry On Cleo is a film that has brought me so much joy over the years and it will continue to do so. It's been a staple on my favourites list for years and that won't be changing anytime soon. Highly recommended!