Percy 1971 ***


1970 saw two movies in competition; not competing submarine dramas, not even competing competing magician dramas, but competing ‘search for a penis’ comedies. David Niven’s The Statue has already been covered in this blog; this entry deals with the rather more successful Percy, which was eighth in Britain’s top ten box office attractions. A quick cross-check with 2018’s top ten suggests that, in like for like terms, a cool £35 million would be the kind of sum earned. This Ralph Thomas film makes some fuss about being the first to deal with the presumably hot topic of penis transplants; the eternally put-upon Hywel Bennett plays Percy, an antique dealer who receives another man’s member after an accident and sets out on a quest to find out who it belonged to; a ‘genital mystery tour’ as Percy wryly suggests. This quest involves meeting a number of comely women, including Britt Ekland, Elke Sommer, Adrianna Posta and Sheila Steafel, and a surprising amount of introspective soul-searching, accompanied by a soundtrack by Ray Davies and The Kinks. Despite a couple of brief lewd moments, including a striptease to a xylophone instrumental of Lola, this isn’t a typical British sex-comedy, but seems to be leaning into some kind of existential angst. Things get a bit lost in the second half, but the cameos keep things moving, with Denholm Elliot on top for as Percy’s doctor, Are You Being Served? star Arthur English doing a comic routine in a pub, and Patrick Mower makes a personable playboy. Percy is best seen as a repository of dated fashions and dialogue; Percy’s Mini-Moke is something to behold, as are his garish outfits. Meanwhile various actresses  try their best to set pulses racing with such unwieldy chat-up lines as ‘If I want to discuss dogs, I call a vet’ and ‘What do you think of my reproduction Welsh dresser?’


The Statue 1971 ***

StatueThe statue justifies the tag of the kind of ‘with it’ film that audiences found it preferable to be without, featuring David Niven as a public figure whose wife (Virna Lisi) creates a sculpture of him with enormous genitals. It transpires that the genitals were someone elses, sending Niven on a globe-trotting mission to find the well-hung model before the statue is unveiled. The pay-off for this convoluted set-up is seeing Niven being forced to attend a few not tremendously appetising orgies, something he does with the strained faux enthusiasm for a grandfather asked to attend his daughter’s dollie’s tea-party. In a side-story of zero consequence, Niven has also invented his own language which had captured the imagination of the world, but The Statue is more interested in seeing Niven drop his trousers in a public photo-booth. Written by Dennis Norden, it also features a psychedelic freak out, John Cleese, Tim Brooke Taylor, Graham Chapman, a theme song called Charlie, plus a repeated crash zoom into Robert Vaughn’s bare buttocks that has a certain novelty value. And a repeated joke about the then president with the punch-line ‘It didn’t hurt Nixon…’is perhaps a line that was of its time, as is this curious, awkward comedy.