Thursday, 2 May 2013

DVD Review: Spanish Fly (1976) Leslie Phillips and Terry-Thomas

The 70s were a wonderful time for British sex comedies. They all wanted to be "dirty" without having the guts to actually be so (not that the BBFC would have allowed it anyway). Spanish Fly is firmly in the old school camp, right down to its two stars, Leslie Phillips and Terry-Thomas. Think of an Ealing comedy and add a few boobs and some suggested bonking and you get the idea. All the elements of a good British sex comedy are there: the annoyingly bouncy theme tune and some well known TV/film faces, with the different ingredient: a foreign setting, in this case Minorca.
spanish fly leslie phillipsspanish fly frank thornton
 Sir Percy de Courcy (Thomas) is doing what he does best, blagging his way around the continent, thinking of one scam after another, when he comes up with the idea of buying some really cheap Spanish wine and selling it to the toffs as expensive French. When the wine proves undrinkable, he tells his butler/companion Perkins (Graham Armitage, who was so wonderful as the mocking Louis XIII in Ken Russell's The Devils) to add something to it in order to make it more palatable. During this mixing process, some of the local insects get put into the mix, but rather than making the wine worse, it actually improves it and has the effect of an aphrodisiac. Cue Sir Percy's old school rival, Mike Scott (Phillips), who's been having a spot of bother in the bedroom department, and is on the island with a group of models (dolly birds, of course) to shoot a lingerie set. Sir Percy gives Mike a sample of the wine, and the results are instantly rampant.
spanish fly leslie phillipsspanish fly leslie phillips terry-thomas spanish fly leslie phillipsspanish fly leslie phillips
While not as saucy as some of the other films in the genre, there's still plenty of flesh on display and the leads are always watchable (Thomas especially playing up to his caddish image with plenty of "absolute shower" quotes). Sue Lloyd (Crossroads, Corruption, The Ups and Downs of a Handyman) is able support as Phillip's sex starved, suffering wife who seems to be the money behind his fashion business. While billed quite highly, the recently departed Frank Thornton (Are You Being Served?, Keep It Up, Jack) appears only briefly as Phillip's doctor at the start of the film. The director, Bob Kellett was no stranger to this type of film, having made the Frankie Howerd Up! films (of which, Up Pompeii still ranks as one of my all time favourites), the wonderful Ronnie Barker sound effect classic Futtock's End and Don't Just Lie There, Say Something!
spanish fly sue lloydspanish fly leslie phillips
The trouble with Spanish Fly is it's not really rude enough to be a successful British sex comedy, and not necessarily funny enough to just be a comedy. For novelty value alone, and the chance to see the two great actors make the most of the lovely ladies, it's a interesting diversion at least. It's worth noting, it was around this time Thomas was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and he made very few films afterwards, and there's a very curious jump cut in a scene where Lloyd barges in on Phillips with another woman, and she takes away his bed sheet to leave him naked with just a pillow to quickly put into place. It certainly looks as though there may have been one or two frames which may have revealed more than the actor would have liked, but this cut was in the previous VHS version I have seen so it was no doubt done at the original editing stage, and not for this release.
spanish fly leslie phillipsspanish fly
Which brings me to the DVD, I really must applaud Network for even bothering to release this, as I'm sure the market is very small. And whats more, actually making a fantastic job of it too. Like their recent DVD of The House In Nightmare Park, this comes with the as-exhibited cinema ratio and 4:3 as filmed versions (which both look glorious, as they are from the original negative), as well as 50 mins from the films score. Re-live that awful theme tune again in glorious fidelity. It's hard to recommend the film on its own merits, but I would certainly recommend the disc for the curious, and fans of 70s kitsch cinema
6 out of 10

No comments:

Post a Comment