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  Percy's Progress Last Man Standing
Year: 1974
Director: Ralph Thomas
Stars: Leigh Lawson, Elke Sommer, Denholm Elliott, Judy Geeson, Harry H. Corbett, Vincent Price, Adrienne Posta, Julie Ege, Barry Humphries, James Booth, Milo O'Shea, Ronald Fraser, Anthony Andrews, Bernard Lee, Madeline Smith, Alan Lake, Jenny Hanley
Genre: Comedy, Trash, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Percy Edward Anthony (Leigh Lawson), to give him his full name, became notorious for a major operation he underwent a few years ago which gave him a new penis in a transplant, and now he cannot use it enough, bedding a wide variety of women wherever he travels. This has seen the breakdown of his relationship with Clarissa (Elke Sommer), especially when the gutter press mob their bedroom and inform Percy he's the subject of the biggest divorce case the country has ever seen. When the trial is underway, with all those women whose marriages he has ruined watching and awaiting the verdict, he is offered an escape by the policewoman (Adrienne Posta) who was meant to guard him. Soon, pausing briefly to have sex with his saviour, he is headed out to sea...

With the news in 2015 that South African surgeons had performed the world's first successful penis transplant, the world of the 1971 comedy drama Percy was no longer science fiction, it was science fact, though you don't image the real recipient had to undergo the experiences Hywel Bennett did in his movie. Even less than that, you don't expect him to end up like Leigh Lawson in a sequel that could have been barely related if it wasn't for the team of director Ralph Thomas and producer Betty E. Box who made both, and thanks to the success of the previous movie hired veteran writer Sid Colin to pen this follow-up (sitcom great Ian La Frenais contributed as well) which did not have the same impact.

In the midst of the British sex comedy explosion (so to speak) of the nineteen-seventies, there were a number which adopted science fiction to enhance their humour, usually some form of fantastical aphrodisiac but sometimes going further, as in the likes of Zeta One or Spaced Out. Percy's Progress was somewhere in the middle ground, as its big idea was that its hero (now renamed after his penis, apparently) had decided to become a seafaring hermit, drinking nothing but champagne for a year as he isolated himself to make sure his sex addiction was kept in check. Here's the sci-fi: while he's been away, an American military transport plane has exploded and poisoned the sea with a chemical weapon which causes impotence across the whole world as the substance has entered the water supply.

The film made a meal of this both comically and by way of exposition, but what all this had to do with a penis transplant was something of a mystery, as it had no bearing on the events. Could this have been - whisper it - a cynical cash-in? Elke Sommer and Denholm Elliott (as the surgeon) returned from the first movie, and the cast was decidedly overstuffed with famous faces or at least ones recognisable from this decade, so Harry H. Corbett was Prime Minister, Judy Geeson was a scientist investigating the crisis along with professional and sexual partner Milo O'Shea, Barry Humphries was a zoologist with an interest in rabbits (and inevitably showed up in Dame Edna guise as an Australian newsreader), James Booth was a scurrilous private eye, Madeline Smith was a beauty contestant who gets to utter the sole swear world, and Julie Ege...

Well, Julie Ege was acting as the assistant to the movie's biggest star, one of the most notable instances of "what the hell are they doing here?" casting in a genre full of them. Step forward Vincent Price, whose Anglophile tendencies are the only explanation for his appearance, or rather wheel forwards for he was stuck in a wheelchair for the duration of his performance; he played a shipping millionaire who wants Percy to impregnate his wife to give him an heir. But then, a lot of folks want that as he has the only working member in the world, so a contest where women of all nations line up to shag him is staged, an example of the overreaching male sexual fantasies that made their way into the storylines of these efforts. However, that British attitude to sex, the manner in which it quickly tires after the novelty wears off, informed the latter half as Percy can't face Jenny Hanley or Penny Irving or Minah Bird or any of those seventies dollybirds, and longs for solitude once again. Mildly amusing, but it gets sick of itself before you do. Music by Tony Macaulay (notably not The Kinks).

[Network's Blu-ray has a decent enough print, considering, with two trailers (one U-rated, the other X) and a gallery as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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