Saturday 28 September 2019

Hard times... Percy's Progress (1974)

Penny Irving, Leigh Lawson and Judy Matheson
OK. They made a follow up to the film about a man who has a penis transplant.

The first film had Hywel Bennett as the beneficiary of the spare part and did very well at the box office reputably making £500,000 profit. I know little about it other than the fact that the Kinks wrote the theme and that’s how I first heard of it and now I really must watch it. This follow up features Leigh Lawson as Percy, an altogether more likely leading man yet perhaps less adept at handling the comedy of Sid Colin, Ian La Frenais (as unlikely as it seems) and (Harry H. Corbett, the dirty old man…).

It’s a 70’s “sex” “comedy” which focuses less on the added appendage and more on the virility it has endowed. Percy’s prowess is a blessing at first but he soon finds it a curse especially after the USA accidentally dumps a chemical agent at sea which leaves him as the only man left to stand up for the human race…

Elke Sommer and Leigh Lawson
We start the film with Percy caught in bed with Clarissa (Elke Sommer), one of any number of married women he is involved with… Jeffcot, a private dick (ha-hah!) played by James Booth, has tracked him down with enough photographers to ensure conviction. Percy duly has his day in court – with the gallery packed with conquests old and new – but escapes justice with the help of PC 217 (Adrienne Posta), who cannot resist his charms and drives him off to the coast.

Percy hides away on a yacht for long months, drinking champagne and trying to forget women even though he can’t escape his dreams and imagines a pod of dolphins as naked women… but he snaps to in time for the comely cetaceans to escape his attentions.

Perky Posta!
Meanwhile the Yanks have unleashed their reverse-Viagra on mankind and it looks like the world will end with a billion masculine whimpers and not with a bang after all. The human reproduction line has been halted by the involuntary withdrawal of all members.

Percy can stand amorous abstinence no longer and lands his yacht at a Mediterranean port where he is able to enjoyed a free ride (sorry, but you chose to read this ramble!) at the local brothel where we find a bounteous bevvy of unemployed workers including the stunning Penny Irving and the stunning Judy Matheson (nee Jarvis) who is clearly having fun with all this. Judy has spoken warmly about the film recently and it’s easy to forget that this was a) work and b) a daft comedy with actors who knew each other having a laugh and entertaining the audience too. It’s not Bergman or Antonioni but it’s Ralph Thomas alright: director of Doctor in the House, A Pair of Briefs and Deadlier than the Male to name but three.

 Anthony Andrews, Harry H Corbett and Leigh Lawson
News gets out that there’s a functioning man left and the search begins for Percy with Harry H. Corbett popping up as a British Prime Minister, not unlike Harold Wilson, complete with a Yorkshire accent and mutterings about "thirteen years of Tory misrule" – you never had it so good mate, try 2019 for size! The PM devises the plan to pimp out Percy and a competition is launched to find a line of women to, erm, work with him in furthering the species.

Meanwhile a team of doctors works hard on finding a lift for humanity’s hopes, led by a mad Dr. Anderson (Barry Humphries who also doubles – of course - as an Australian TV Lady) and Dr. Klein (Milo O'Shea) who is assisted by Dr. Fairweather (played by Judy Geeson equipped with over-eager American accent and a character surely founded on one of Dr Kildare’s more admiring assistants).

The list of talent goes on with Denholm Elliott as Percy’s transplant surgeon, Sir Emmanuel Whitbread, Vincent Price as multi-millionaire, Stavos Mammonian and T. P. McKenna as a news editor.

Madeline Smith and Alan Lake, surprisingly cast as the compere at a beauty pageant
Joining the queue for Percy are Madeline Smith as Miss UK, Jenny Hanley as Miss Teenage Lust (natch) and Minah Bird as Miss America… Julie Ege and Carol Hawkins are, to no great surprise, in there too… consenting adults all and, actually, I think the balance in this film is away from the saucy/smut and towards Carry on… there is a story and Thomas paces things well around the utter lack of seriousness.

Dusty Verdict: You’ll still enjoy this if you’re in the mood and even if it’s only for spotting the talent. The idea of a man so irresistible to women he has to hide away is accentuated by the device of his being the only choice available and it’s maybe making a point about something. For the life of me I can’t quite work out what it is… but, never look a gift dolphin in the mouth.

A dolphin, yesterday
Jenny Hanley, Leigh Lawson and Carol Hawkins

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