What do you get when you mix Master of Menace, Vincent Price, some Hammer Glamour screen sirens, ‘Edna Everage’ and a handful of famous British comedy stars? The 1974 sex comedy Percy’s Progress – that’s what! Here’s a look back at the very 1970s oddity.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
With a bounty of Bollinger 1969 stored onboard his yacht, Percy Edward Anthony (Leigh Lawson) takes to the high seas to escape his notoriety as the well-endowed recipient of the world’s first penis transplant.
But when the entire male population becomes impotent after the US-made PX-123 drug accidentally gets into the water supply, Percy becomes the British Government’s secret weapon in reversing the world’s falling birth rate.
After ‘servicing’ the representatives of several countries in the Miss Conception International contest, Percy decides he’s done his patriotic duty and goes back into hiding – which doesn’t go down well with his advisors or the bevy of beautiful birds who only want a favour most men would be happy to oblige…
WHY IT’S WORTH WATCHING – OR NOT?
This 1974 British sex comedy was director Ralph Thomas and producer Betty E Box’s sequel to their box-office hit Percy, based on Raymond Hitchcock’s 1969 debut novel, with Leigh Lawson packing into Hywel Bennett’s briefs as the sexed-up anti-hero with a rather enviable manhood.
Drawing on themes originally exploited in the 1933 sci-fi musical comedy, It’s Great to Be Alive (a remake of the 1924 silent, The Last Man on Earth), and in the 1946 Pat Frank novel, Mr Adam, Percy’s Progress comes off like a poor-man’s Carry On. It should have been a saucy seaside postcard delight, but it’s not. Director Thomas, who was responsible for the ar superior Doctor series of comedy films, and Up Pompeii! writer Sid Colin have merely served up a series of flaccid, vulgar jokes about impotence.
Getting into bed with Lawson (who famously wedded both Hayley Mills and model Twiggy), are some well-known Hammer glamour stars, including Jenny Hanley, Madeline Smith, Julie Edge and Judy Matheson. But it’s the roll call of famous names that’s the real reason to check this oddity out. Among the embarrassed faces on display in the messy farce are Elke Sommer, Milo O’Shea, Denholm Elliott, Bernard Lee, Anthony Andrews, Ronald Fraser, Alan Lake and Anthony Sharp.
As the Aristotle Onassis-styled tycoon Stavos Mammonian, Vincent Price is confined to a wheelchair (the last time he did that was in 1953’s House of Wax); while Harry H Corbett (who wrote some of the dialogue, along with comedy legend Ian La Frenais) gets in an hilarious Harold Wilson impersonation (albeit with a Yorkshire accent) as the British PM.
Following his multiple roles in the crude but entertaining Barry McKenzie movies, Barry Humphries takes on the dual role of scientist Dr Anderson (sporting a great whistling speech pediment) and an ‘Australian TV lady’ who bears an uncanny resemblance to his Moonee Ponds housewife, Edna Everage. Judy Geeson, meanwhile, has a very odd role as Dr Anderson’s overly cheery assistant who become instrumental in reversing the drug’s sterility factor.
Interestingly, author Raymond Hitchcock ended up publishing a novel based on Sid Colin’s screenplay, while the film’s theme tune ‘God Knows I Miss You’ was co-written by The Seekers’ Keith Potger and Tony Macaulay, who had a string of hits for the likes of Long John Baldry and The Hollies.
EMI Films originally released the film in the UK on 29 August 1974, but it took another two years before a US distribution was announced. Retitled, It’s Not the Size That Counts, trimmed by 90-minutes, and with additional scenes of a penis transplant and a dwarf (played by one-time Ewok, Luis De Jesus) tacked on, the film was eventually released Stateside in November 1978. You can watch a US TV trailer below.
Percy’s Progress is available on Blu-ray and HD featuring a high definition transfer from the original film elements, in its original aspect ratio, from Network Releasing in the UK. The special features include original theatrical trailers, image gallery and promotional material (pdf).
UK BLU-RAY CLIP
THE US TV TRAILER