In 1967, Dr.Christian Barnard made world history by carrying out the very first heart transplant operation. Much speculation was generated as to how far the new technique could be taken. Would it be possible to say, transplant a brain? Or any other organ? It sounded like the ideal subject for a movie, and in 1971, one got made. 'Percy', based on a book by Raymond Hitchcock, was adapted for the screen by Hugh Leonard, and directed and produced by Ralph Thomas and Betty E.Box, the team behind the popular 'Doctor' films, based on Richard Gordon's books.
Hywel Bennett is 'Edwin Anthony', a hippie-like antiques dealer who lives alone in London ( his wife has recently left him ). One day he is carrying a chandelier down a street when, unexpectedly, a naked man falls out of the sky and lands on him. Guy Warrington had been in bed with his lover Helga ( Elke Sommer ) when her husband came home early, and in his panic he jumped out of the window, forgetting she lived in a high-rise apartment. He is killed, but Edwin survives. However, a shard from the chandelier has cut off his penis ( ouch! ). Surgeon Emmanuel Whitbread ( Denholm Elliott ) removes Guy's pecker ( nicknamed 'Percy' ) and grafts it on to Edwin.
When Edwin wakes up, he is horrified at what has been done to him. The tabloid press regard the whole affair as one big joke and set about trying to locate Percy's new owner. On leaving hospital, Edwin is driven by a mad compulsion to find the donor's identity, and, obtaining a list of men who died in the hospital that day, tracks down their wives, and a glamorous lot they are too...
It is hard to believe that 'Percy' was made only five years after Norman Wisdom ended his run of cloth-capped comedies. Directors such as Thomas and Val Guest sensed that the audience for British film comedies had changed, and tailored their material accordingly. Hywel Bennett is the best thing about the film, portraying Edwin in a sympathetic light, as a man who wants a normal life but has become a carnival freak and does not like it ( today he would probably be invited on 'I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!' ). Denholm Elliott is wonderfully smarmy as the surgeon. We first see him on a B.B.C. talk-show - he walks out in disgust when the producer ( Angus Mackay ) keeps bleeping out the word 'penis'!
The script is peppered with what Ben Elton used to call 'knob gags' ( a nurse tells Edwin: "Let's see how it stands up in the light of the day!", while Whitbread whistles a self-composed ditty entitled 'Penis From Heaven' ), but strangely, the film is a lot tamer than you might expect. It is quite thoughtful in its depiction of adult relationships. It did not warrant its 'Wahey! Penis transplant comedy!' marketing. The only nudity comes from Antonia Ellis' stripteasing nurse. Edwin's meeting's with Percy's girlfriends brings us glorious sightings of Britt Ekland and Elke Sommer, while Julia Foster, Cyd Hayman, Adrienne Posta, Gaye Brown, Tracy Reed, and Sheila Steafel, and Sue Lloyd appear elsewhere. George Best graces a 'Billy Liar'-styled fantasy sequence, while Arthur English is seen as a seedy pub comic.
Yes, it is a one-joke film, but manages to camouflage its deficiencies rather well. It is the work of professional film makers. The same story in the hands of say, Stanley Long or Derek Ford, would have been an unwatchable mess.
When 'Percy' was in production, Mary Whitehouse thundered to the press that it was in 'poor taste'. As so often happened whenever she complained about anything, the public flocked to see it in droves. In 1974, there was a sequel ( sans Bennett ) entitled 'Percy's Progress'.
Nice songs by Ray Davies & The Kinks, with 'Lola' being put to good use during Ellis' strip.
The summary quoted above came from the trailer. It asked 'How long is Percy?' and then responded with 'About 100 minutes!'.