“Gin and Tonic is the cornerstone of the British Empire”
As a fan of both Terry-Thomas and Leslie Phillips, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch the British comedy film Spanish Fly; sadly the film is tired rather than funny–in spite of the talents of these two great British comedians and a plot should have yielded a few laughs.
On the beautiful island of Minorca, scallywag Sir Percy de Courcy (Terry-Thomas) finds himself once again penniless. Since the disreputable Sir Percy isn’t exactly willing to work for a living, this means he must concoct some sort of scam to maintain his luxurious lifestyle–which includes a splendid mansion and a number of servants. Sir Percy has a habit of making horrible business decisions, and when he buys thousands of bottles of local wine, his chauffeur, Perkins (Graham Armitage) predicts that this is will be yet another financial disaster.
One sip of the wine, and Perkins is proved correct. The stuff takes like “cat’s piss,” and Sir Percy’s plan to stick a French label on the wine and sell it for a tasty profit seems doomed. But then Sir Percy instructs Perkins to doctor the wine and make it less revolting. Perkins accidentally turns the poor tasting wine into an aphrodisiac and Sir Percy seems destined for wealth and fame.
Of course, since Spanish Fly, from director Bob Kellett is a sex comedy, it seems a perfect twist of the plot when Sir Percy’s old school chum, Mike Scott (Leslie Phillips) arrives–along with a photographer and several gorgeous models. Mike’s wife designs underwear (“for girls to put on and men to take off”), and Mike travels to Minorca for a photo shoot with the bevy of foreign lovelies to model the undies. Meanwhile Mike’s naggy domineering wife, Janet (Sue Lloyd) isn’t a bit worried that her husband will stray–after all he’s safely impotent.
Even the talents of the wily Terry-Thomas and the suave Leslie Phillips can’t pull this film out from mediocrity. Some of the film’s fault is to be found in its sheer clumsiness–the stupidity of the locals for example. Plus the film seems to throw away valuable screen time by spending it on far too-long stretched out scenes of children gathering ingredients for the wine and endless scenes of models twirling in the underwear. There are a couple of topless scenes, but the laughs are, unfortunately, few and far between.
Spanish Fly came at the end of Terry-Thomas’s career. Diagnosed in 1971 with Parkinson’s Disease, he retired in 1977, while the elegant Leslie Phillips continues to contribute to the screen.